Sometimes we say to those who have lost and are hurting, “I can’t imagine.” I think that’s an unwise and potentially hurtful thing to say. We can’t empathize unless we try to imagine, try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Is imagining and empathizing the same thing as the actual experience? Of course not. But it helps bridge that gap, and it allows us to be of some comfort because we all share human emotions, even if we don’t share the exact experiences.
On Memorial Day especially, we need to imagine. Less than one percent of the population are serving at any one time. Fewer and fewer Americans have direct contact with the military. We have what is called a civilian-military divide, a chasm of misunderstanding and ignorance. There are groups like Got Your 6 working to bridge that divide, but it seems to me there should be a greater burden on the civilian side of the bridge — those of us who benefit from the sacrifice of the other.
We need to imagine and we need to listen to the stories and experiences. We need to try to understand the impact the loss of a military member has on their families and on their comrades. This day we honor those who have paid the highest price for their country and us, their countrymen. We should also try to imagine so we can empathize and mourn with those who they left behind.
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