As our nation honors its fallen warriors this upcoming Memorial Day, it is useful to consider how Americans currently perceive its meaning and significance, and whether that is how we as a nation should actually be thinking about, or spending time on, this sacred day.

Many appear to consider Memorial Day to be a day that signifies glorification of our nation’s veterans, and our wars, and overall of our nation’s military might. But that is not the true purpose of the day, and approaching it as such misses a vital opportunity for Americans to seriously consider the causes and consequences of our nation’s many ill-advised wars. 

Indeed, we would do well to listen to the wise words of some of our most famous veterans who fought those wars, including, for example, Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, a two-time winner of the Medal of Honor. He told us that war was “a racket…the only one in which profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” 

As well, former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, told us that “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Former generals Butler & Eisenhower are far from the only veterans who feel that way. A solid majority of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, for example, do not believe that those wars were worth the sacrifice/costs that they incurred; unfortunately, information such as that sobering statistic goes under the radar. Americans do not know, nor pay attention, to such things.

“Honoring” those that have been killed in our nation’s wars should not be limited to attending department store sales, barbeques, or waiving small American flags on Memorial Day. And it certainly should not consist of platitudes and simple speeches about our nation’s war dead having died, universally, for freedom or our safety. 

Rather, many of those who died in our nation’s wars — including those who were killed in Iraq —  did not die so that any American could be safe, or to defend America’s freedom. All available evidence supports that analysis: and yet, despite the fact that the vast majority of our nation’s wars are not fought to protect us, or to protect anyone’s freedoms, our government continues to insist otherwise.

It is my belief that, in fact, it dishonors those who died in that war and some of the other wars our nation has engaged in, to refuse to engage with that stark reality, and to espouse alternative history — especially on Memorial Day, as we as a nation currently do and as our government and defense industry encourages us to continue to do.

The Weld County Veterans Memorial in Greeley is both my local Veterans Memorial and a perfect example of this. It contains various monuments whose inscriptions purport to describe the reasons for, and conduct of, our nation’s various wars; but those descriptions are nothing short of pure propaganda and alternative history, as anyone reading them can see.


Such inaccuracies on such a sacred memorial — and in any context, frankly — dishonors, rather than honors, those who have died in those wars. The irony is a tragic one, as it is entirely unnecessary and ensures that we are “doomed to repeat history,” given that we have apparently decided to forget it.

Rather, we owe our war dead better than that. They displayed great courage in putting themselves in harm’s way; we now owe them the courage to speak the truth about our wars, rather than the status quo of laziness, cowardice, and self-interest at the core of our continued lies about them.

As a member of Veterans for Peace and an Iraq War veteran, I believe that working for peace — which necessarily includes being honest about why, and how, our wars are fought — would truly honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. 

That is true patriotism; for there is no better way to honor the dead of our nation’s wars than to work to ensure that the tragedy of these wars is not repeated. We must honor our war dead by being ever vigilant, in working toward preventing one more needless death, in wars our country does not have to fight, but continues to insist that it does.   

Travis Weiner, of Greeley, is a member of Veterans for Peace, an Iraq War Veteran who served in the 101st Airborne Division from 2005-2009, and is a public defender.

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Travis Weiner, of Greeley, is a member of Veterans for Peace, an Iraq War Veteran who served in the 101st Airborne Division from 2005-2009, and is a public defender.