Something about the name "Memorial Day" makes one think of the past – most likely the fact that it has the same latin root as "memory". Every year on Memorial Day we're encouraged to take a minute to remember the people who have died in the line of duty in the military. Inevitably this takes us back to grainy black and white pictures of Dad or Granddad in their World War II uniforms, or maybe Uncle So and So who fought in Vietnam. Lord knows the cable networks will be loaded to the gunwales with World War II themed programming marathons to help nudge you in that direction.
From the Associated Press three days ago:
KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine NATO service members were killed Thursday in Afghanistan, including seven U.S. troops among eight who died when a powerful bomb exploded in a field where they were patrolling on foot, officials said.
Two Afghan policemen also died and two others were wounded in the explosion in the mountainous Shorabak district of Kandahar province, 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Pakistan border, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, chief of the Afghan border police in the province. "Two months ago, we cleared this area of terrorists, but still they are active there," Raziq said.
Roadside bombs killed 268 American troops in Afghanistan last year, a 60 percent increase over the previous year, even as the Pentagon employed new measures to counter the Taliban's makeshift weapon of choice. Defense officials attributed the rise in casualties to the surge in U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year.
The number of U.S. troops wounded by what the military terms improvised explosive devices also soared, according to the most recent U.S. defense figures. There were 3,366 U.S. service members injured in IED blasts – up from the 1,211 hurt by the militants' crudely made bombs in 2009, the figures show.
Despite the fact that the death of Bin Laden pushed it even further out of sight and out of mind, the ongoing wars in the Middle East (soon to celebrate their tenth anniversary) are producing more casualties every day. Today. Currently. Right now. Sure, it's great that we all remember Granddad on Memorial Day, but take a few minutes today to think about the people who are being added to the rolls of the dead and wounded as we're sitting around the grill or pool.
These are current events. That we prefer to think of it solely as a historical phenomenon is part of the reason that it continues with no end in sight.