Memorial Day Reflections

Posted: May 28, 2018 by Brian Johnston

It’s interesting the way Americans frame the entire concept of patriotism. One key component of American patriotism is how we view our military, and it is most visible during many of our national holidays: Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day.
We display the flag proudly while we celebrate with our families, perhaps saying a prayer or taking a moment of silence at some point to remember the service and sacrifice of our soldiers. The expectation is one of reverence, especially for our fallen.
The gravity of this unwritten contract has never been clearer since a handful of players in the NFL have opted to take a knee during our national anthem—nearly two years later a few of these players cannot find jobs in the league. We have nationwide debates on whether it is appropriate or not to have Confederate memorial statues on display in the state houses of some of our southern states. One needs to look no further than the bumper of the car in front of them to see our nationalism in full effect: America: Love it or Leave it, United We Stand, and I Support Our Troops. In the United States, patriotism is serious business.
The unconditional support enjoyed by the military is exploited by our government to further an agenda that goes unchecked. Our military is constantly engaged in conflict all around the globe with no actual Congressional declaration of war. Few of us ever dare to call the actions of our military into question, lest we’re branded unpatriotic or anti-American. This is a convenient truth that creates an environment that encourages questionable military spending and American involvement on multiple fronts.
The Department of Defense lists 37 casualties within the scope of all military operations of 2017. According to the Pentagon, 33 U.S. troops were killed in warzones in 2017, with 21 of those dying in combat. While the numbers of combat deaths have been reduced through the use of drones, the technology has, if anything, increased U.S. military presence worldwide.
President Eisenhower warned of this phenomenon in his exit address to the American people in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
Personally, I can think of nothing MORE patriotic than to take a moment of careful consideration prior to the application of American military force. For with regards to our military, it’s worth remembering that with each mission that requires all giving some brings the distinct possibility that some will be giving all.

Brian Johnston
Author: Brian Johnston

Author, podcaster, optimist, guardian of The Proversation.


  1. Eisenhower on Military Industrial Complex
  2. U.S. Combat deaths 2017
  3. DOD 2017 military casualty list
  4. Pentagon's New Cold War
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