Joseph Sabino Mistick: Memorial Day, D-Day, Flag Day our real triple crown
Most of us know about the Triple Crown, three big horse races that begin with the Kentucky Derby in early May, followed by the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Since the Roman emperors, there has been a formula of “Bread and Circuses” to create welcome diversions for the governed.
Even today, a focus on sport and entertainment provides a necessary distraction from the heavy weight of life, but those pleasures pass in minutes or hours. We, in America, have a more enduring and serious American triple crown, one that serves us even better.
This triple crown starts with Memorial Day in late May, followed by the anniversary of the D-Day invasion and ending with Flag Day in mid-June, which also marks the birthday of the United States Army. Unlike the famous horse races, which help us momentarily forget, these three days are meant to help us remember.
Memorial Day reminds us of those who died in military service. In many towns across America, Taps is still played at military graveyards, and there are still military-style parades. With luck, there may be a few old veterans of our 20th century wars marching in their original uniforms.
On D-Day in 1944, 160,000 allied troops landed in Nazi-occupied France. There were 10,000 allied casualties, including 2500 killed in action. As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower told the troops before the invasion, “The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
Flag Day, the last jewel of our triple crown, celebrates the American ideals represented by the flag and honors those who have fought and continue to serve and fight under that flag. The “Stars and Stripes” has stood for America since 1777.
These days of remembrance have been controversial at times. After the Vietnam War, there were struggles over who could march in some Memorial Day parades. And Flag Day rankles those Americans who see the flag as a symbol of all that’s wrong with America as well as all that’s right.
Military service has always played a role in national politics, and it is still fair game. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were called out for avoiding Vietnam. Clinton got student deferments and Bush stayed stateside with the National Guard. And Donald Trump continues to be singed for avoiding the draft during the Vietnam War.
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg used Memorial Day weekend to condemn Trump for avoiding Vietnam with a claim of a bone-spur disability. Buttigieg, who was a Naval Intelligence officer in Afghanistan, told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that Trump used his “privileged status to fake a disability.”
“You have somebody who thinks it’s all right to let somebody go in his place into a deadly war and is willing to pretend to be disabled in order to do it,” he said. “That is an assault on the honor of this country.”
American voters will have to decide how much that means to them. It will be debated and it should be debated, because that is just the kind of debate that has been made possible through the sacrifices of all those Americans who did serve.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].