ALPERN AT LARGE--In short, there are those who died for us to live, to debate, to do noble things at home, or even to screw up our lives, because we had and have the choices that we all take for granted.
Then there are those who never had to fight or suffer, because they had the government and private enterprise to fight on their side, have their back, and even reward them for their faux-struggles.
To begin with, there are those who died in World War I and II, and in Korea and Vietnam, or Afghanistan, or anywhere else, and whether we agree or disagree with those who sent them there, one need only remember history (which some reading this either didn't learn, or conveniently forgot) to know that Fascism, Communism, and Terrorism were and are REAL...
...and that those forces were and still are trying to take over the world.
And to those Americans who died abroad...many of them did not die quickly and without suffering--they died in pain and with the terrible, grievous knowledge that all their plans, all their romantic dreams, all of their future children, and all of their business, civic, and literary goals were NEVER going to happen:
This isn't about Reagan, or JFK, or Eisenhower, or Nixon, or Clinton, or either of the Bush Presidents, or any other of our leaders who did their best to stare down and face our very REAL enemies...it's about human beings who confronted those who would have us submit to, and forever speak either German, or Mandarin, or Russian, or Persian, or whatever language our enemies spoke or speak.
If anyone wants to blame any Republican or Democratic Presidents for recognizing Stalin, Mao, any of the Korean Kim Dynasty, the Ayatollahs of Iran, al-Qaeda, or ISIS for what they are, let's just be glad that we can complain and decry them in the safety of our protected and far-removed land.
Whether it's JFK or Reagan, they and others (like Carter and Johnson) fought a Cold War that prevented us from living in the Hell that was either East Germany, Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, and so many other places where tens to hundreds of millions died in misery, starvation, and torture.
But those aforementioned Presidents DID remember the names of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, and then Mao and Castro...because they were adults or at least even children when we fought the War Which Saved the World, and they knew doggone well (even before the haunting battle scene that was illustrated so painfully yet accurately at the beginning of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" what priced was paid for our lives and futures:
Normandy was indeed a "Long Weekend"...and by far more exacting than any traffic jams, high costs of gasoline, or hotel prices we now have to contend with. Those who survived WWII, and that includes those who survived Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, know too well about Survivor's Guilt, while they could look forward to their lives...while their friends and blood-brothers (and now sisters) died right next to them.
Perhaps there are Presidents who pulled back too soon---military and civilian historians alike often suggest that maybe, just MAYBE, we pulled out against Stalin, North Korea, and Vietnam without giving it our all, and would have won if either REAL war and a full-fledged effort was waged, with result of the world being a safer place overall.
And perhaps both the generals and presidents alike (Eisenhower was both), and those who were there at Potsdam and Paris (World War Two), Geneva (Korea), Paris again (Vietnam), Camp David (successful Egypt/Israel peace treaty), Oslo (failed Palestinian/Israel peace treaty) and others...just wanted to avoid THIS:
Not only did those who died lose their lives on any given weekend (or weekday), they lost every other weekend that they took for granted would happen, and which we now take for granted.
And there are still very, very, VERY long weekends for those who not only died, but for those who knew about them, and for those who understand first-hand what Memorial Day is all about:
Of course, there are others who forever will never enjoy a weekend, long or otherwise, and with a burden shouldered on them because their spouse made the ultimate sacrifice:
This extends to the domestic soldiers at home, who keep us safe every day despite recently being demonized and marginalized and "defunded" by people who don't know them, don't respect them, and yet who STILL and ALSO rely on them to keep them safe from REAL bad guys:
And then there are those who fought the good fight, and at the loss of their own lives, to ensure that ALL Americans could, would, and should be united as ONE People and ONE race, such as Martin Luther King:
and Malcolm X:
Some died at the hands of backwards-thinking Americans, and some died at the hands of rivals...but they died for all of us, and truly that means ALL of us reading this now.
So who are NOT real and Fallen Heroes, but rather who are Faux-Heroes?
Those who've made "major bank" and celebrity status and political power being "civil rights icons" and "social justice warriors" when, in fact, big business and most of local, state, and federal government power were all right there behind them to ensure their favored status.
And they know who they are, and we know who they are, even if we don't acknowledge them because we don't have the courage to "offend" anyone.
On a related note, when it was time for Police Week this year, we had a major figure in our nation who blamed Law Enforcement for our civil unrest, despite later clarifying with a supportive statement for our police officers.
And, of course, we had another major figure in our nation with a sordid relationship with law enforcement for many years (either as hypocritically strict or too lenient) who just sent the most awful and inappropriate Memorial Day Weekend messages ever, and BEFORE any clarifying statement recognizing this weekend for what it really is:
Of course, the question of their predecessor accepting a Purple Heart from a veteran is one well worth asking, and forever debating:
Perhaps no one in particular should be demonized, Republican or Democrat, for things said and done. The future will decide who did things right, or who did things wrong, or who just meant well while being human and doing what they thought was right.
But there is no one to speak for the dead--and all the blood, pain, tears, and agony they went through as they died for all of us to enjoy life they way it should be...with peace and hope and dreams there for the taking.
All we can do is remember...and to make Memorial Day the REAL reason to have this Monday off to spend with our family.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 8-9 years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Ken.Alpern@MarVista.org. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)