The Supreme Sacrifice
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.
(From An Athlete Dying Young, in A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.)
As we reflect on this Memorial Day, the words of this poem elegizing a young athlete, serve to remind us that those who were killed in modern wars were young.
I remember sitting in the synagogue a few years back as the names of those who had died in Afghanistan that week were read to the congregation. Most, if not all were 20, 21, or even in their late teens. Those who died had just begun their lives: finished high school or a few years of college; recently married, maybe with a child or two; or some, who had hoped to begin a career with the skills they learned in the military.
We sometimes forget that not only had they given their lives, but that those lives had yet to be lived. And, those whom they left behind—parents, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, young kids—had just begun to enjoy the children or siblings or spouses they had raised or grown up with or loved.
We cannot bring those who perished back, but in their honor let’s take care of those who did come home: our veterans. Let’s make sure they get the medical care they need; the education they deserve; and the respect they’re owed from a grateful nation.
Nevada State Treasurer