American troops have fought for nine years in Afghanistan and more than seven in Iraq, but many Americans hardly notice that their country is at war. That’s worth remembering this Memorial Day.
It is common to lament that federal holidays, from Martin Luther King’s birthday to Veterans’ Day, are now more about long weekends and department-store sales than anything else. The failure to commemorate the war dead, however, has a particularly corrosive effect on the country, for once we forget the price of combat, it becomes all too easy to allow others — and other people’s children — to pay it.
In this essay, Jon Meacham reflects on why war feels distant to so many Americans — and why the burden of military sacrifice weighs heavily on so few.