McALLEN, May 28 - Having just recently observed Texas' Vietnam Veterans Day, I noted that we Americans pay tribute to our heroes with frequency.
Every time a day of remembrance passes by on the calendar, I think about the saying, "If you do not learn from the past, you are destined to repeat it."
Human history is riddled with wars and armed conflict of varying magnitude. Some wars were fought for just causes. Others for reasons perhaps not accurately recorded in the history books. Each of us has been touched by war in one way or another, either through the service of a loved one, a friend, or by way of personal experience in a theater of combat. Days of remembrance, as is the case of Memorial Day, are days of ritual reflection, serving as a constant reminder of what is required in an armed conflict.
War creates heroes, requires sacrifices on a personal and societal scale, and brings enormous costs to mankind - both economic and cultural. War is about blood and guns, growing threats and the proliferation of danger. In this nation, war has often been an instrument of last resort, our expression in the defense of liberty, taking up arms for democratic causes.
Every year, as time marches on and the days on the calendar go through their never-ending cycle, we see these days tick by. Veterans Day. Texas Vietnam Veterans Day. We remember Pearl Harbor. And of course, there is Memorial Day.
When writing or speaking on themes related to military service, I always strike on a tone of thanksgiving. Our world, our lives move along at increasing speed and we are frequently seduced by forgetfulness. New products and technology consume our daily lives. Our daily lives depend on new technology, so the pace of technology is the pace of our work, our rest - everything.
In that race toward tomorrow, we can easily forget about the past, the sacrifices, the bodies of the fallen on battlefields scattered throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and on our very own soil. So I am thankful that we have days like Memorial Day every year. Without a Memorial Day, the past would slowly fade from the public consciousness.
I believe there is a lot of truth to repeating the past if we fail to learn from it. In the case of Memorial Day, we have an opportunity to learn not only from past mistakes, but from past triumphs. Particularly in the world of politics, it is heartening to see Americans joined together by past sacrifice and devotion to an ideal of liberty.
It is precisely days like Memorial Day which keep the fabric of American life intact.
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa is state senator for Texas Senate District 20. A Democrat who lives in McAllen, Hinojosa served in the Marines and fought in the Vietnam War.