Walker: Remembering Memorial Day

By David W. Walker , President & CEO, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes

The 75thanniversary of Victory in Europe Day came and went on May 8 with scarcely a ripple. A few of the old guys got together at the World War II memorial on the mall. Not much else to attract the news. V-E Day was a long, long time ago, another life, another world. Each day fewer of the WWII veterans are with us. The public schools spend less and less time on the great conflict that catapulted our country from abject Depression to world dominance and a prolonged economic expansion that was the envy of the world.

All of that seems so long ago and irrelevant to the current age of the endless war on terrorism and now an unshakable pandemic that has thrown our entire country into a tailspin. A little microbe too small for the naked eye to see has done what the Axis powers and the Islamic fundamentalists could not – laid us low. We are mostly confined to our houses, unable to congregate. Millions have lost their jobs. White collar workers can sometimes work from home but for most people remote work is not an option. To perform menial, but never more essential, jobs with your hands, you have to be there. If you are called back to work in one these essential jobs, you go at the peril of your life because the coronavirus is everywhere.

This is an untenable situation. Those masses of people living on the margins had little in reserve when the crisis hit. They are already out of money. They have a temporary reprieve from being evicted from their homes, but it won’t last long. Meanwhile, they have no money to buy food and their children are going hungry. People are lining up around the block for free food packages. This is the kind of situation that fosters social unrest.

Our government is splintered and unable to offer a coherent plan for recovery. We have not seen a crackup like this since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the lessons from that era are not encouraging. During those trying years our government came up with one fancy program after another designed to jumpstart the economy, but the economy simply would not revive. It didn’t get going again until the massive spending of World War II.

Today Uncle Sam is pouring money by the boatload out the door as happened in World War II, but little of it is getting to the people who really need it. In any event, the war spending that put an end to the Great Depression wasn’t just a matter of money. It put tens of millions of people back to work. If you weren’t in uniform, you were working in the war production industries. Everyone was busy working shoulder to shoulder to defeat the forces of darkness. But in this period of home confinement, there is no shoulder to shoulder, no work getting done, no evil enemy being defeated.

I submit that the story of our country during the Great Depression and World War II is in fact highly relevant to the time we are living through today. This Memorial Day affords us an excellent opportunity to recall those earlier days when the so-called “Greatest Generation” survived the Great Depression and then went on to wage the greatest war in history. None of us wants to relive that horrendous experience but we’re looking down the barrel at one that may well be even worse and more prolonged.

None of us wants this but then the Greatest Generation did not want the hard times and war that was thrust upon them either. But somehow they summoned the will to do what had to be done, sacrificed much, and today we must do the same. They had to put aside their differences and work together for our common cause. Today we must do the same.

As the Bible teaches us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” We are not groping around in the dark. We can learn from those who went before us. Memorial Day affords us an excellent opportunity to recall the earlier experience, to learn from it, and to take heart from it.

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