This is the unofficial start of summer. Memorial Day weekend is a three-day weekend in which there is lip service paid to barbecues, certain types of sales events and people in the upper northwest getting semi-confident about putting their snow shovels away. It is a holiday of deep significance and should be revered by all of us. I went there and said the “should” word.

As a country, we don’t agree on much anymore. Even my insistence about maintaining reverence for Memorial Day may be seen by some as a glorification of war and placing too much importance on our military past and emphasizing things that maybe don’t align with how some people want to move toward holding the United States of America as a peace-loving place. Is this a place where people bow down to weapons and tanks and glorify battles and events in which many proud, devoted, heroic people were consigned to graves on behalf of this country?

I love history and have “context” as one of my top five strengths in the Clifton StrengthsFinder strengths. I treasure it because I seek to find out context about everything. As I set out to write this, I looked up the history of Memorial Day and found that in this country, the honoring of our soldiers who gave their lives in battle gained prominence during and after the US Civil War in the 1860’s. It was known as Decoration Day and took place in May because by then spring had pretty much arrived everywhere and therefore graves could be festooned with flowers as natural shrines to the occupants of soldiers’ graves.

For much of our most recent history, there has not been compulsory military service. In my 63 years of knocking about the planet, there have not been any rules, laws, regulations, or anything in any way that caused me to serve in the military. Two of my brothers have, one was drafted and therefore his service was compulsory during the Vietnam War (though he did not serve there), and the other chose to a few years later. Even when laws did not dictate whether a person was required to serve, many in this country chose to serve.

In my contemplation of this remarkable and important observance, I found pictures that are powerful, moving and heartbreaking. If you are standing around your grill this weekend (and I don’t fault you for that) it might be fitting to include some moments of honor and reverence and tribute to those who now belong to eternity and occupy graves all over the world so that we can celebrate comfortably this weekend.

In our shared contemplation of what this weekend means, you might include thoughts of family members who have an open spot at the table this weekend, or whose picnic blanket isn’t quite draping the ground at the city or county park, but possibly here:

Abraham Lincoln is worthy of quoting in a myriad of circumstances. His Gettysburg Address said it best, it’s only 271 words or so, just take a minute and read it. Read it out loud and savor all that beauty and reverence, which ring out to us, 158 years after Mr. Lincoln delivered them at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA in November 1863.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

They gave the last full measure of devotion. For us. What freedoms do you enjoy that could have been acquired, preserved and protected in any other way?


Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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  1. Tom, what a great response. I too was upset about what happened on January 6th yet I saw no one having hearings about the burning of the church in DC or the so called “Peaceful Protests” that rocked DC for five nights in June 2020. Those so called peaceful protests lasted close to five days and nights. I have a son who works for the Uniform Division of the Secret Service and he stood the line for five long nights in which bottles of urine, bricks, frozen bottles of water and human feces were thrown at them. Some of those officers contacted Covid as a result of those riots. So yes January 6th was an assault against our democracy, just let us not forget what happened back in June of 2020. Two wrongs never make a right.

  2. Tom, thank you for a great reminder of what this Memorial Day is all about. I am a Marine Corps Viet Nam veteran having served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 leaving just as the Tet Offensive started. About a year and a half ago my friend who is married to a Vietnamese woman and volunteers with me at the hospital talked to me about his wife’s family coming from Vietnam for a visit and was wondering if we could meet for dinner. He advised me that his wife’s father had served as a officer with the North Vietnamese Army during the war. He asked if that would be a problem. I told him that I didn’t think so yet on the day of the dinner I told my wife that I didn’t think I could do it. My wife told me that I had made a commitment and I needed to keep that commitment. Well we went to dinner. Her father could not speak English so Jay’s wife acted as a translator. It was a very emotional and enlightening dinner. We discussed the history of the country, the fact that they had never been conquered by China, France or the United States and that they had helped us during World War Two. I told him that I had volunteered to serve and I was surprised to find that he was a college engineering student and was told that had to serve. He told me that failure to do so would mean he could be put up against a wall and shot and his family would suffer consequences as well. Our discussion was very respectful and I had gained new insight to an enemy that I had despised. Her father was a man who loved his country just as much as I loved mine although we served for entirely different reasons. We hugged each other before we left from the restaurant.
    One more thing. There is something that I continue to struggle with. I served in Vietnam for 14 months, saw more than any 19 year old should see, didn’t get hurt per se and came back with my head relatively on straight. I had a neighbor who lived down the street from me. He joined the Marine Corps and also went to Vietnam after I did. He was Killed in Action two months after his arrival in country. I continually ask myself why him? Why is it I survived 14 months and he only two? He had just as much to give to society as I did, yet he died for what?
    So Memorial Day and Veterans Day has very special meanings for me.
    Some tell me that I have an obsession for the Marine Corps and I will admit that I do. My father was a Marine having fought on Iwo Jima.
    I am not sure where this country is headed and can only hope that some day there will be no more wars and that we can all come together and get along.
    Thank you again for your article.
    Semper Fi
    Tom Stassi
    Once a Marine Always a Marine!

    • Tom — First of all, thank you for your service. I can’t imagine doing what you had to do as a 19-year old. And your story…. I met a number of WWII Army Air Corp vets who decades later ran into German fighter pilots they went up against during the war. They told a similar story. Powerful.

      I salute you and all of your fellow men and woman who wore the uniform.

      Thank you.

    • Tom, thank you for that response. It was tender, and heartbreaking, and it also must be one of the most memorable events of your life. How life serves up such interesting and emotional focal points to bring us to a better understanding of our lives and of the world. I salute you for your service, and I know a number of Marines who feel as you do, there are no former Marines. Every single one of us owes you a huge debt of gratitude. I can’t imagine what a powerful holiday Memorial Day must be for you. Thank you so much for your service. All the best, always…

  3. I enjoyed your posting Tom. Your wisdom and wit serves you well in articulating your “common-sensible” and practical perspective on today’s “interesting times”.

    Good old “Honest Abe” talked about a house divided could not stand (he must have read his bible) and today’s divisiveness is what he meant. Abe aptly illustrated this point in his “Lyceum Address” and I quote his words:

    “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot, we must ourselves its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever or die by suicide.”

    Abe’s words definitely ring true for today. True American patriots must choose to support our Constitution over political ideology that is disguised as Socialist-Marxist.

    Finally, I want to quote Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

    Thanks again Tom for your post. God bless all of our veterans and their families. Coram Deo!

  4. Tom: Thanks for the post, I appreciate the effort. But as a 30 year veteran, and a proud American, I fully expect an official, non-partisan Congressional investigation of the insurrection on 1/6. Anything less is a slap in the face to me and all the veterans who defended that Capitol either vicariously or otherwise. The least any of us can expect is that an assault on our very democracy deserves a thorough investigation, and I’m not referring to news outlets and social media coverage.

    Thanks again, and have a great summer!

    Byron Edgington

    • Thank you for reading and engaging on this, Byron. I didn’t intend it to be a forum for a discussion of politics, but welcome your insight. They can create a commission of any kind and investigate it until the cows come home, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. As you can see in my comment to Jeff Ikler, this event will be investigated to the hilt, I have no doubt about that. Whatever the ruling class wants to turn this into, it will no doubt become that. It’s just another desire of mine that there be some measure of justice, recompense and resolution to all those businesses and homes that were burned and trashed in all the supposed hand wringing over George Floyd’s death. Most of the destruction was at the hands of paid mercenaries, and no one seems to care about the destruction and loss of life and loss of means of living caused by those. We can whistle by the graveyard all day long, but we have to make sure that we investigate, punish and ruthlessly pursue anyone and everyone who made the most elite of the protected class feel a wee bit threatened on January 6. Go for it, investigate that too… whatever makes you feel warm and comfy again. It just seems so out of balance. It might just be me. Thank you again for your thoughts and engagement, and especially for your service.

  5. Tom, it’s so interesting to consider what you wrote in light of yesterday’s Senate vote NOT to investigate what happened and why on January 6th. (Nine Republican Senators and two Democratic Senators didn’t even have the courage to show up for the vote.) You asked a powerful question to end your heartfelt piece. “Context” is my top StrengthFinder skill so indulge me in asking another: What would have happened if the “tourists” who “visited” the Capitol on 1/6 had found Mike Pence and other government officials, and succeeded in stopping the certification?

    The photo of the widow on the blanket in front of her husband’s grave is heart-wrenching. I hope it’s not prescient of the Constitution laying in tatters in front of Democracy’s tombstone.

    • Hey Jeff, thank you for the insight, and I do appreciate your thoughts. I am not too concerned about any kind of commission to explore and fully dissect something like what happened on January 6. Since it was all about and in favor of Donald Trump, it will get more than enough attention in so many different ways that there will be more than enough exploration of what happened. I’m sure that in time, Ken Burns will do a documentary, tens of thousands of hours of investigation will be invested by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, Vox, Axios, and Huffington Post to put on display all the things that you want Congress to do with this commission.

      As events unfolded that day, I scanned the horizon of most media outlets, and without exception, there was universal condemnation of the violence, looting and rioting. I’m talking Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham other talking heads on PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS – there was not a single voice giving support to what was happening in the capitol, or condoning it in any fashion. Violence in the seat of our government to try to force the will of our leaders was stupid, reprehensive, short-sighted and criminal. All the arrests and publication of anyone and everyone who was involved is a matter of public record. Every social media post will be examined and pored over and anyone who was anywhere near the capitol will get a thorough questioning. This will be one of the most investigated and examined things in our history. I’m not sure that adding a puffed up platform for politicians to thump their chests about it is going to add to the clarity or understanding of what happened in any fashion.

      If there were an effort, or any inkling of desire on the part of the privileged chest thumpers in DC to examine and understand all the riots and destruction and looting and killing that went on during all the riots everywhere in 2020, maybe I would be inspired to think differently about a January 6 commission. I know that the capitol has been repaired and restored, and there probably isn’t an inkling or a clue that anything happened to any of those buildings, except the barbed wire that remains so that those in power can continue to use their siege mentality to separate themselves from the reality of the rest of this country.

      If you come to Kenosha, WI, in my own home state, you’ll see boarded up buildings and areas that looked like they were bombed out, sitting empty and vacant yet. No one cares that all the mercenaries who came to that little city in the far southeastern corner of our state gutted and burned that town up, had their fun and then left the citizens to sit and wonder what the hell happened. The rioters are long gone, but the residents who still live there are without those essential businesses and services forever. Who in their right mind would rebuild any of that just to get torched again this summer when the anniversary of the shooting of Jacob Blake rolls around this August? Those were minority owned and operated businesses that took the brunt of that rioting, and no one cares about the rubble and charred remains of buildings sit there never to return. No one.

      Our elected leaders got a little taste of that similar kind of anger on January 6. It was probably terrifying, horrible and uncalled for. But none of them was hurt or killed, nothing that happened that day has any lasting value. The capitol police were told to stand down, and while I am curious as to why that was, it will never be revealed, and if it is, it will quickly be labeled a conspiracy theory.

      Go to Minneapolis and look at the charred remains of businesses from the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Many of the rioters that might have been arrested were long ago released, thanks to efforts, in part, of our current Vice President, Kamala Harris. We hear all kinds of hand wringing and defense of people being able to burn, pillage and loot after an event like that, as a release of anger and righteous indignation of police violence, but does anyone ever attempt to talk to those minority business owners who lost everything in those riots, and then never rebuild? The mercenary rioters don’t care, they had their fun, the buses brought them in, they were supplied them with their weapons and modes of destruction, and they all left within 48 to 72 hours to go and burn and pillage other cities. I would like to see an investigation of those kinds of things, but we will never see it.

      Meanwhile, the soldiers who died to give us the freedom to have this discussion are still dead. They went off to foreign lands, or sometimes, in the case of the Civil War, to other states or regions of this country to fight for what they believed in. We have been blessed by warriors of all stripes, races, genders, nationality and creeds, who felt strongly enough for the freedoms that this country offered that they were willing to cancel everything of their own in exchange for the freedoms that we value to live on. I wish that all of the leaders who are in place now as an extension of those who died to save our way of life, cared about our freedom and truth and the principals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the way that the occupants of those graves did. Investigate January 6 to your heart’s content, please do. But if we ever want it to be a wider view of violence and civil unrest for the purposes of understanding everything that is at play in dividing our country, well, it’s just not going to happen. There is no desire, there is no “want to” about finding out and addressing all the things that are the root causes of our divisiveness. It’s all about serving narratives.

    • Tom, your long comment here took my breath away. The breadth, correctness, and levelheadedness of it is a marvel.

      The only thing worse than having two sets of rules is not knowing there are two sets or rules. And the only thing worse than not knowing there are two sets of rules is knowing but refusing to acknowledge there are two sets of rules.

      My hat is off to you, my friend.

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