It’s Memorial Day weekend and I’m taking time to remember the reason for the holiday. Memorial Day appears to have originated in South Carolina, as a freedmen’s (former slaves) memorial to fallen Union soldiers. It eventually spread to included remembering all of the nation’s fallen. Amid all of the political hyperbole this weekend, I think we should talk more about the amazing contribution those freedmen made, for no other reason than to give thanks.
Last year, I had a chance to listen to Lt. Tom di Tomasso (aka Dito) talk about his experience in the Battle of Mogadishu, which became known as Black Hawk Down. Eighteen US servicemen were killed in the incident. This discussion between him and about 20 of us was intense, unforgettable and inspiring. At the heart of the Battle was a successful mission that went horribly wrong and was complicated by the need to retrieve comrades who had been killed in action. From what I heard, it appeared that some of the forces stayed on the ground to help a few individuals that were either dead or surrounded by the enemy. Tom’s mesmerizing story involved the risk and sacrifice of US soldiers as they attempted to evacuate everyone.
So, I was already thinking about our nation’s fallen and Dito’s story and then, while completing some homework for my ethics class, I started thinking about a statement that one of my classmates submitted: “(Robert) Nozick believed utilitarianism would lead us to a society where the needs of the vast majority would be sacrificed for one individual.”
At what point does sacrificing the group’s safety become too much? Dito told us it’s unthinkable to leave a comrade behind. This seems consistent with utilitarianism. Or does it? If you believe that we should leave no man or woman behind (and I do), how would you feel if it meant the sacrifice of all in an unsuccessful bid to recover an individual? I certainly don’t know but thought the topic and the holiday coincided to give us something to think about.
Like me, I suspect you know someone in the US Armed Forces. You probably also know or are related to someone who has died in service to our country. This makes it personal, and all the more reason to remember the fallen. For me, that’s my cousin, USMC Corporal Andy Glenn. This is for you and your family, cousin.
If you’re interested in learning more about Memorial Day, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_day
If you want more on Lt. Colonel di Tomasso (ret), see http://fulcrumconceptsllc.com/
For more on the Battle of Mogadishu, see http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&profile=advanced&search=battle+of+mogadishu&fulltext=Search&ns0=1&redirs=1&profile=advanced