I come from a military family. My grandfather served in World War II, fighting in Northern Africa and Italy under General Patton. My father served in the Vietnam War, a member of the 1st (Air) Cavalry Division. And my uncle and cousin served in the first and second Gulf Wars, respectively. All were soldiers in the Army. Two earned Purple Hearts. But all came home.

Today is about honoring those who didn’t make it back. Today is about reflecting on their sacrifices and, for me, on the sacrifices of the families they left behind. For every act, the universe unfurls innumerable consequences, some large and some small, some acknowledged and some overlooked. But when that consequence is the death of a service member we do well to pause our political conversations about military action and instead respect the simple yet final human sacrifice so many have made in the fulfillment of duty to country.

Between the idea
And the reality
Falls the Shadow
— T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

I am heartened that my country observes Memorial Day. For if, to re-appropriate Eliot, the idea is a military objective and the reality is its pursuit, the Shadow—the specter of the fallen—must never be forgotten lest we succumb to the fallacy that it can ever be escaped.