Sarasota News Leader

05/31/2013

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Sarasota News Leader May 31, 2013 OPINION Page 64 IF THE DEAD COULD TALK By Stan Zimmerman City Editor COMMENTARY Monday, May 27, was a celebration of the dead for the living, the dead who died in military uniforms — sometimes in combat; sometimes in training; sometimes in sickness; sometimes by accident. All were sons and daughters taken too soon. who sacrificed their offspring to presidential ambition? To soothe the endless ache of a teen deprived of a noble dad? To wish a classmate had not fallen on a grenade to save his mates? Do the dead care? Do they look down from some American Valhalla and say, "Thank you, Sarasota, for recognizing our sacrifice, our If you visit a military cemetery in the United mistakes, our blunders, our sickness, our herStates — and you should; one is nearby — you oism." Is this a day for celebration? will mostly see the graves of veterans; the survivors: We do not celebrate them on Memorial THE UNKNOWN GRAVES Day. We have another holiday in November More than a century ago, the United States mofor them. bilized to fight Spain to liberate Cuba. It was a To visit the graves of those we celebrate on popular war, and thousands of men enlisted. Memorial Day, you must go abroad — to A large number would die in the swamps of France or Belgium, the Philippines or Italy or Louisiana, producing the majority of deaths in Tunisia — to find their graves close by where the Spanish-American War: deaths by disease. they fell. Only one place holds naval graves of similar import: Pearl Harbor. Fighting sailors Far fewer would deploy to Cuba, but more too often sleep in the abysmal, anonymous than a thousand would die to conquer Santiadeep. go de Cuba. And suddenly the war was over. Monday's Sarasota parade was a grand display Spain gave up, and the United States became of patriotism, an hour-long pageant of music an imperial power, taking over Puerto Rico and marching, revolutionary poseurs and liv- and the Philippine archipelago, plus Guam. ing veterans on their last legs, old machinery Thus came the first of the unknown graves. and new convertibles — with many people There is no American national cemetery in "uncovering" as Old Glory paraded in review Cuba, and in the Philippines the graves are before them time and again, and more than more recent, from World War II. As we look a few who had no idea what to do with their at America's subsequent wars, we find the baseball caps when our flag passed by. black MIA (missing in action) flag still flying We were all there for … what? To share the over the Vietnam conflict. And we can only shattering loss of a son? To embrace mothers hope that all the subsequent military activities

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