Memorial Day is an occasion to not only honor service men and women who are no longer among us but to recognize obligations to veterans, and to those who will serve.
The United States did better by soldiers returning from domestically popular wars than unpopular ones, beginning with Vietnam. Soldiers with the unseen wounds of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were most likely to fall through the cracks, although that has changed somewhat in recent years because of the large number of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of help. The nation is as obligated to provide that assistance as it is to help those with more obvious physical injuries.
States and communities have been more aggressive in reducing the number of homeless veterans on their streets. Soldier On in Pittsfield is doing that good work here in the Berkshires.
Going forward, U.S. leaders must be certain that the cause is just when sending men and women overseas to fight. The war in Afghanistan was justified in the wake of September 11, 2001, but its mission shifted to nation-building in a nation that is more accurately a collection of fiefdoms, and U.S. troops will still be there when President Obama leaves office. An Iraq War begun under false pretenses gave us ISIS and increased Middle East turmoil.
Ambitious, naive armchair warriors gave us Iraq and they or their successors would happily embark on further misadventures. They failed our soldiers in Iraq, but Americans caught up in war fever acted as enablers. A wiser nation can't allow that to happen again.