Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day often get equated, but there is an essential distinction between the two. Veteran’s Day honors all who have served the American military in wars. Memorial Day honors those who’ve perished. It’s an annual reminder that wars have grave human costs, which must be both recognized and minimized.
Those costs are not inevitable. We ought to also set aside time to remember those throughout American history who have tried hardest to reduce them, to prevent unnecessary loss of life both American and foreign: war resisters.
American history is littered with examples of pointless wars fought for bad reasons, and with people who risked their careers and their freedom to oppose them. The Mexican-American War, for one, was a blatant land grab. While James K. Polk claimed that Mexico had struck first — saying in his war message to Congress that “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon America’s soil” — the truth was that he had sent American troops into disputed territory between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers, whereupon Mexican troops, concerned by American encroachment, attacked.