Michael Murphy.

EDITORIAL: Remembering and Honoring the Fallen

Each year, on Memorial Day, we honor those who have fought and died for America in wars here and around the world. There have been many wars, great and small. There have been all too many dead. 

While we remember, we also embrace hope that war could just be that, a memory. Sadly, we seem unable to get beyond hope. War seems to be a constant in our world though, right now, and happily, not in America's immediate world - though it has to be said that the men and women who serve in America's armed forces are never far, in time or space, from harm's way.

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But the wider world is witnessing war - the formal army against army kind, and the version that pits armies and mercenaries against innocent and helpless civilians.

In the former context, the obvious headliners are the war in Ukraine and against Ukraine, and the war pitting Israel against Hamas with huge numbers of civilians caught in the middle, tens of thousands of Palestinians dead, all too many of them children, and over 1200 Israelis mercilessly slaughtered on October 7. 

We remember lost Americans first and foremost on Memorial Day. But it is hard not to cast our minds and eyes farther afield. Any war can be America's war too in the blink of an eye.

 Patrick Gallagher.

Patrick Gallagher.

War is fought, won and lost, and often regretted, when it is too late. Memorial Day (first named "Decoration Day") followed America's Civil War and it was intended to commemorate both the Union and Confederate dead. It was, and would be, a day of healing as well as remembrance.

In an Irish context we are well aware that Irish immigrants and many of Irish descent fought on both sides in the Civil War. They faced each other eye to eye and musket to musket at battles such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. 

War itself for sure knows irony. And so much more.

The Irish, of course, have fought in all of America's wars, when America was one side, its own side.

In this regard we remember the Sullivan Brothers from World War II.

We remember others such as Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who died to save his comrades in Afghanistan. We remember Patrick Gallagher, who died in Vietnam, rests in his native Mayo, and in whose name a U.S. Navy ship is currently being built in Maine.

We remember New York's Tommy Minogue, who also died in Vietnam. We remember Corporal Patrick Sheahan, who died in Korea and rests in his native County Kerry.

And there are countless more.

When we say "Irish" we of course mean it in the broader term of Irish-born and Irish American.

As we remember this year, as we honor those who have given, to borrow from Lincoln, the full measure of their devotion, we must also consider war in the present, and how best to avoid it in the future.

There is all too much war in the world at present, in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar, to name but some of it. We can only hope for an end to it all sooner rather than later, a just and lasting end.

In the meantime, on Monday, May 27, we look back, we remember and we memorialize.