Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Memorial Day: Your Real Distruption

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great maw that was WWI. On this Memorial Day, it should be our purpose to bear witness to the great scope of sacrifices made by those who came before us . Today, we all desperately cry out for “innovation” and “disruption” as if these things are new or unknown to our services. We discuss Google glass and 3-D printing, but in 1914 entire veteran armies were wiped out by new technologies and tactics in a war the likes of which soldiers had never seen; a war within which no innovation could save you. British soldiers went to battle without helmets, Napoleonic-era Cuiassiers rode into battle on horse-back against machine guns, the allies invented tanks to transport men and arms across the no-man land’s corpse-strewn horrors in an attempt to end the conflict that had destroyed a generation of their youth.

On Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who fought for our freedoms; it is critical that, in this remembrance, we realize that -we- are not historically unique. Arguably, while some of our number are heroes of the highest order -we- are not special. Out technology, our education, our innovation is nothing compared to the desperate measures taken in battle by our kin in arms who saw around themselves the end of the world. While we must continue to innovate as a matter of survival, never think our “new” is so significant as to escape the horrors of war. The “Wars to End All Wars” don’t, and any technology that claims to do so is only the guise for future failure.

So, when you think of “innovation” or “disruption” today, don’t think of new ways to use your phone, or the efficiencies you can find through knowledge management… think of the disruptions of war, the men whose sturdy minds snapped in the fields of France under the months-long thunder of guns, those whose innovation was forged in the set-jaw of those saving their civilization, their nation, and their families from a future of starvation, blood, and death.  So, “Happy Memorial Day,” because untold generations have snuffed out their quiet light so that we may be here today. Let us not find pleasure in where we are going and what -we- can accomplish, but find happiness today in that there were those, and still are those, willing to give it all so that we may have that opportunity.

Matthew Hipple is a surface warfare officer and graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is Director of the NEXTWAR blog and hosts of the Sea Control podcast. His opinions may not reflect those of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or US Government.

Standing at the Crosswalk: Memorial Day

Standing in uniform at a crosswalk, fruitlessly mashing the “Press to Cross” button, I felt unsettled. I have less a “belief” in crosswalks than an occasional passing superstition. I’m the type who thinks right-of-way means it’s my right for you to get out of the way, whether I’m on foot or behind the wheel. Why should a uniform cause me to use the push-button placebo? I realized that my simple unwillingness to jaywalk in uniform represented one of the greatest pillars of our national security: our military’s ingrained subservience to and respect for civilian control.

The defense of the realm is more than facing down external threats; the cornerstone of a healthy military is subservience to the population it defends. Western nations have long taken this relationship for granted, with law-abiding militaries obedient to civilian leadership and observant of civil codes. However from the Balkans to Burma, we have witnessed unspeakable devastation when the military wing serves itself. Be it institutional military control of industries in Indonesia or the individual sobels of Sierra Leone, the corruption of the military is arguably more rule than exception. When the madcap dictator rolls out elaborate medals, titles, and military accoutrements, he’s attempting to enshrine his legitimacy in supposed military prowess, ensuring the military becomes a force to be served rather than serve.

In the United States, our tradition goes beyond mere obedience to civilians; we cringe at even inconveniencing them. With the Third Amendment, “no soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law,” our military was founded on principles not just for defending the nation but also minimizing the impact on the lives of citizens. In a less dramatic example, one need merely try convincing a Normandy veteran to go to the head of the grocery line. They’ll resist your polite offer as hard as they resisted the Germans. Our military institutions have instilled at the core of our pride a selflessness that has been the guarantor of our military’s loyalty and good conduct, and this nation’s stability.

However, the unwillingness to walk out into the crosswalk represents in a small way our veterans humble unwillingness to step out into the spotlight for themselves. Many complain that Memorial Day has lost its meaning, that a day dedicated to our fallen and our veterans has become National Grill Day. I would argue that there is no better tribute to the success of their battles than the nation’s families joyfully gathered together, blissfully ignorant of the horrors of war. That is what these men fought for. That said, many may not realize that we lost the last veteran or WWI this year. It is a timely reminder that the human link to history won’t last forever. With fallen who cannot speak for themselves and veterans too humble to take their due credit, it falls upon us to bring their remembrance into the celebration. Memorial day is not a mourning of those who have fought and those who have been lost, it is a celebration of what they have gained us. They’ve already done their job, now its time to do ours.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.