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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On this Memorial Day weekend, remember what the fallen have missed

On this Memorial Day weekend, WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson ponders not only the lives lost to war, but also the memories they never got to create … in his "On My Mind" commentary.

I spent some time the other day looking through a roll call of the dead.

Archer, James W.

Archie, Henry M.

Ashley, William K. Sr.

Baker, Hubert P.

Baker, Louis E.

This is from the website of the National Archives. It’s a list, state by state, county by county, of the Army and Army Air Force personnel who died in World War II.

Under Mecklenburg County, there are 363 names.

Finlay, Walter L.

Fisher, James C.

Fogg, Melvin W.

Forbis, Jimmy L.

Ford, Walter A. Jr.

Do you know how many American military personnel have died in wars? I had no clue. Different places measure it a little differently, but the total, from the Revolutionary War through today, is somewhere around 1.3 million.

Most of them, of course, have been young. In their twenties. Maybe a spouse and a baby back home. Maybe parents waiting for letters that never came, until they got a knock on the door.

Kelley, Ralph A.

Kerns, Olin H.

Kirk, James

Kleto, Speros N.

Knapp, Richard B.

We pause, here on this Memorial Day weekend, to honor the ones who fought and died for us. The cruel twist is that what we also commemorate on Memorial Day is the memories our war dead never got to create. They never eased into middle age, never retired to the golf course or the front porch, never got to see grandbabies. All those dreams, all that potential, all those unlived days and years, wiped out by a bullet or a bomb.

We never seem to understand that the best way to honor them is to not fight in the first place.

Anger and greed are part of our nature, and for some people and some nations, it becomes their reason for living. The pain that we feel for the ones we lose, other people feel for theirs. We are all human and we all grieve. But somehow we convince ourselves that they are something less, those on the other side.

And so the list grows longer.

Paine, Alfred L.

Paris, Randolph

Parker, Roy H. Jr.

Pearsall, Richard H.

Pegram, David E.

I spoke to a man the other day who is old enough to remember World War II. He was a child then but he felt the fear and sensed the blank spaces left behind by those who did not come home. He worries that our world is on the brink again. It astonishes him that so many people are willing to walk backward into the bloody footprints of history.

The thought of blasting away our enemies can feel cathartic. Maybe even moral, in some twisted way. But that feeling never quite factors in how they can do the same to us. One point three million lives cut short. Nothing left but our memories, on this Memorial Day, and a list of names.

Woollen, Bryan W. Jr.

Wray, Edmund L.

Wright, John F.

Wylie, Charles S.

Yelton, Samuel A.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.