Happy Valentine's Day

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Wave the flag and stoke up that barbeque anytime

By John Pawlak

Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Memorial Day! Have a wonderful Fourth of July and a great Mother’s Day!
What’s that you say? Memorial Day has passed us by and it’s not July yet?
Well, why must our lives be so regulated that we can only celebrate something on a single day? There’s no law against giving your sweetheart a box of chocolates in June.
If you feel patriotic, wave the flag and stoke up that barbeque in December. Send your mother a card every month telling her how much you love her. And seriously, is there any good reason to only celebrate Isaac Newton’s birthday just once a year?
Okay, so maybe we don’t want kids randomly showing up at our doorstep asking for candy every other weekend.
Actually, that holiday makes no sense to me. The kiddies yell “Trick or Treat!” but when I ask them to show me a trick, they just stand there looking confused.
Come on, do a few handstands or juggle some candy apples for me!
 But I digress (as usual). I wanted to talk about the noise flooding the media over the Memorial Day weekend. Sales on barbeque grills. Barbeque meats. Patio furniture. Articles on how to grill the perfect burger. How to throw a Martha Stewart party. How to make that perfect margarita.
And of course, lots of old war movies. John Wayne in ‘The Longest Day,’ Charlton Heston in ‘Midway,’ Jason Robards in ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ and Goldie Hawn in ‘Private Benjamin.’
America spent the weekend sitting in their new lawn chairs, munching on White Castle sliders and watching Gary Cooper portray one mean Nazi-kicking pacifist!
But what people didn’t do that weekend was talk about Marine Sgt. Kevin B. Balduf. Unlike the mind-numbing media attention given to Palin (everyone wants to know what toppings she had on her Domino pizza,) there was no room in the newspaper to print a few words about Sgt. Balduf. Well, let’s correct that oversight.
On May 12, while supporting combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, Sgt. Kevin Balduf died in the ongoing farce euphemistically named “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The month of May also saw Army Sgt. Amaru Auilar, Spec. Brian Riley Jr., Pvt. Lamorol Tucker, Pvt. Cheizray Pressley, Spec. Bradley Melton, and a long list of others die while “preserving freedom.”
How many people took the time between burger bites to “remember” these warriors?
Happy Memorial Day? For the American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, every day is Memorial Day — and it’s never happy.
But over here in the states, Memorial Day weekend was all about numbers. How much could you save if you bought that washer/dryer combo with the ultra-quiet spin cycle? How many cases of beer should you buy for the party? How many margaritas can you make with one bottle of Jose Cuervo?
Well, how about this number? Sgt. Balduf was the 6,000th American soldier to be killed in the insane conflicts being staged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom? Freedom of what?
This isn’t a war. It’s an urban battle waged for an undefined goal.
There’s no victory to be won, no glory to be honored, no purpose to the continued death of our soldiers.
This isn’t about preserving freedom or protecting our borders or fighting for liberty.
It’s oily politics and the price of 6,000-plus American deaths doesn’t seem to be enough to warrant national outrage.
The only “enduring” aspect of this insanity is the lasting effect it has on 10s of thousands of soldiers returning home with brain damage, missing limbs and broken dreams.
And many of those soldiers, far too many, return to no home at all. One third of our nation’s homeless are vets.
Apparently, 6,000 dead isn’t enough to motivate our nation. Would 7,000 do it?  8,000?
Let’s celebrate Memorial Day, remembering the sacrifices of our troops, remembering every day.
And let’s make this celebration the best it can be by demonstrating a concerted effort to minimize those sacrifices.  
Let’s bring our boys and girls home.
John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist