Memorial Day 2008

This is Ronald Allen, an Army Specialist who died in Iraq, in August 2003. He was 22 years old. link He also was from Mitchell, Indiana, which is where I went to high school. I didn’t know him. But someone from my hometown is about as close as I can get to this war, even though I was on active duty for five years.

Another fallen veteran I “remembered” today is Samuel Evans Ottenbacher. He was an Aviation Radionman Third Class, USNR, and died in November 1942. He lived at 120 S. Emerson, Indianapolis; my grandmother lived at 120 S. Bancroft. He was a dear friend of hers, and my dad, and therefore me, and therefore my son, have the middle name Evans in honor of him. Dad was born in 1948. My grandmother, pictured here, died this year.

Americans can go overboard celebrating war. And calling on the image of “those who died to keep us free” has become a trite tool used by those who seek to keep us at war. I hope that the country has grown weary of efforts to paint war as the only expression of courage. That does not change the fact that I am glad we set a day aside to remember those who sacrificed so much for their country. Some seeking to exploit these acts of selflessness does not make the acts less selfless or noble or worthy of praise.

While many other young men from neighborhoods throughout Indiana risked their lives when their country called on them to do so, these two, like the others we honor on this day, lost theirs. In pausing to honor their loss, I pray that other such losses will stop soon.

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