Memorial Day, 2005

MEMORIAM: Sgt. 1st class James MacKenzie plays "Taps" during the funeral of Army Ranger Capt. Russell B. Rippetoe at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday, April 10, 2003. Rippetoe, 27, an Army Ranger from Arvada, Colo., and two other soldiers were killed April 4 when a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi checkpoint. Rippetoe was the first soldier from the Iraqi conflict to be laid to rest at Arlinton National Cemetery AP

This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
1,500 GI's are dying every day. Not in Iraq where the daily death tolls are news mentions, and their story purposely kept from public sight, but here at home.

This is the death toll of that "greatest generation" who fought the Axis powers from Normandy to Okinawa.

Back in World War II, death in battle was a shared grief, a wound of the soul carried by an entire country. Today, it seems quite different.

Yes, their names appear in the paper. But outside of the military community the sense of mourning still seems distant, even remote. Perhaps this distance from death may be due to the nature of this fight, maybe because ours is now an all volunteer force. The draft in World War II was the great equalizer. The sons of bricklayers and business moguls all did their bit.

Before 9/11, Memorial Day had become a faded honorarium for those World War II GI's and the vets from Korea and Vietnam.

Now we have Iraq and Afghanistan -- complex missions with occasional reports of progress pitted against news of suicide bombers and continued carnage. The war is less popular with each passing month. We put yellow ribbons on our cars and pledge support for the troops. But, the truth is, they fight and die in ambiguity. That's sad for them and sad for us. A burden the greatest generation never had to bear.




Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.


By Harry Smith
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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