Editor’s Note: The following article does not reflect the views of the entire Midwest Beer Collective. These are strictly my own personal views and should be taken as such.
After working a month straight without a full day off, this Memorial Day was a welcomed vacation from baseball. So what did I do? Slept in, did laundry, went swimming, then visited with friends in the evening. While it was nice to do these things I haven’t been able to do in weeks, I know that this isn’t what Memorial Day stands for. It is a day to remember those who have died in battle for our country from the American Civil War to today’s wars overseas, so I dedicated some time to think on our history as a country.
The most surprising part of this reflection was realizing how very young our country is. The American Civil War seems distant to us, an antiquated period in history that none of us identify with anymore. But if you consider the last surviving Union soldier, Albert Woolson, died in 1956, we are jettisoned forward in time to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and the birthdays of many of our mothers and fathers.
We have an uncanny ability to distance ourselves from the past, possibly something we do to feel less responsible for our blunders, but when we think about the things Woolson saw in his lifetime we realize this distance is really a sleight-of-hand on our part.
This man witnessed America’s greatest injustice, slavery, and the war that divided the country in two. He lived through the assassination of two presidents and watched while America was drawn into the first world war that engulfed Europe in death and destruction. He lived through the Roaring 20’s and watched his country fall into the Great Depression. He saw the rise of fascism in Europe that drew Europe and the Pacific into another worldwide war. He saw the end of Hitler and witnessed the aftermath of the Holocaust. He saw the struggle of African-Americans to win equal rights in society almost a century after he fought in the war which abolished slavery. He was still alive when both of my parents were born.
When we consider this, we see that our historical legacy is not as far off from our modern times as we like to think. Instead, we must consider ourselves responsible members of this national family we call the United States. In accepting this responsibility, we hope never to forget the sacrifice our soldiers have laid upon what Lincoln termed the “altar of freedom,” and in doing so, may we fully grasp the gravity of war and let it lead us to champion alternative methods to solving our conflicts.
Thank you to all of our veterans who have given themselves for our country in mind, body and spirit. We will never forget you.