This is something I wrote for Memorial Day 2005 and I run it every year. Yes, I do know these wars are wrong, and that it's important to remember all the innocent civilians who die as a result. But it's also a time to remember the members of the military who were caught up in the insanity:
Soldiers are not chunks of identical clay; each of them has a story, their own reasons for being caught in a war.
Brave? Maybe - sometimes, under some conditions. Scared, mostly. The younger they are, the more likely their presence had to do with restlessness, cockiness. The need to be part of a winning team, the desire to even a score. Kick ass, take names. Kill them all, let God sort them out.
The older they are, the more realistic they are. This was a steady paycheck, or a way to supplement the one they already had. When they join, it's with their eyes on the future benefit. When they're in the middle of a war, they think only of surviving the next five minutes. Please, God, please. Let me see my family again.
And when they die in the war, each death leaves a hole in the world. It's important to remember that, to not see them as a monolithic casualty list or as an acceptable loss.
No loss is acceptable. Ask the parents, the spouses, the children. They try. They tell themselves stories of nobility, sacrifice, a greater cause. They cover it up with the ritual rhetoric. But deep down, they must wonder.