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Memorial Day Memories

I spent a beautiful sunny day in San Jose with four 90 year old men yesterday: three siblings (including my father in law) and their cousin, all Chinese Americans born to immigrants. Some served in WWII and some in Korea. The closest we got to talking about the military was their visits to the VA. I missed another opportunity to ask about their experience, to apologize, or to thank them for fighting for the future of an empire that withheld rights from Asian Americans and immigrants for centuries.

My father was drafted to serve in Vietnam and enrolled in officer’s school. He had the good fortune of being stationed in Georgia in a unit that must have been set aside for kids with connections. They spent their days marching in the woods and destroying tanks. Therefore, I exist.

A few years ago, my daughter's choir group sang at a Memorial Day ceremony at the military cemetery in Colma where it is foggy every morning between May and September. Vets in the audience were asked to stand. That was the only time I’ve seen my father acknowledge in public that he served and be acknowledged for serving.

The wars in Korea and Vietnam were started by well-connected racists who dismissed Asians as inferior. Because of covid, Donald Trump, and unfettered capitalism at the root of every toxic substance and system, racism against Asians is back in force, especially in the US.

On Memorial Day we, once again, set aside random gun-related violence and racists who run the Republican Party, police unions, and many other groups that any true Home Of the Brave would have shut down on charges of terrorism and hate crimes. We pause briefly on the last Monday in May to thank soldiers, men and women, for their sacrifice, for losing time with their families, for missing out on better paying jobs, for marching in jungles dodging bullets instead of going out on Saturday nights, for losing their limbs, hearing, and eyesight, for making us feel safe by terrorizing people in far-off lands who had nothing to do with 9/11 and suffer the consequences of ecocide for which US corporations are largely responsible.

We thank them because they did what they were asked to do. We thank them hoping it will absolve us from enabling bureaucrats who waste taxes on the military instead of fixing a system that is hell-bent against teaching the real reasons why we fight.

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