This Remembrance / Veterans Day, I am not only remembering the veterans who died and fought for our freedom, but I am also remember the innocents who also suffered for it. Their names are often not as well registered and kept so they are more easily forgotten, especially by the victors who remember their deads more and who write the history to come.
In North America, practically all the attention is given to the military men and women who fought and made sacrifices for our freedom. That’s because war has hardly touched our shores. They’ve generally been fought on others’ territory, incurring casualties the victors often forget. Even if the victors freed certain other people from the enemy that was occupying their land, I doubt anybody sees those they loved killed by stray bullets, or massive bombing campaigns over entire cities, as a necessity to that victory and freedom. The deaths and injuries of the innocents are rarely tallied or announced, and when they are, they feel like they only served the context to show how few the military deaths that also occurred were in what otherwise was a catastrophe.
Having been alive for part of the Viet Nam War, I have an appreciation for the impact of war on the innocent. There, over 52,000 Americans were killed, and many more injured, but some 2.5 million Vietnamese on both sides of the conflict died, most of whom were civilians. Most of them were forgotten, if ever recognized aside from maybe a hundred or so people who would have known them and many of whom would have died. There were not a lot of formal record of their existence, only estimates of an aggregate death total from counts and surveys. Millions more were injured and just about everyone of the 50 million or so who lived during that war was negatively impacted.
I am certainly grateful for the men and women who fought to bring a lot of the world its freedom today, but lest we forget the innocent civilians who also died in the war, some of whom quite heroically, and also those who suffered and supported others because of it, we will be no better off than just remembering the veterans. The price of war becomes a lot higher when civilian impact is included in the price, and so is the deterrent to have to go to war.