On the morning of Sunday May 26th, my husband took us to visit the national cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco, where we live, to honor the US citizens (not saying “Americans”, as this term applies to North, Central and South Americans) who participated in the wars of the U.S. My husband comes from a Quaker background. Quakers are known for opposing wars, and being incarcerated as conscientious objectors, but he wanted to go there to teach the kids respect for others who’ve had hard lives and had participated in the creation of a country that he loves and believes in. He wanted to teach the kids that holidays are not just for shopping, but have a little time to think of events that have happened and meditate about certain moments in history.
I, as an Ecuadorian, was torn with the idea. Though I recognize the value of the US participation in World Wars I and II and of certain well-conceived diplomatic policies that helped the world, I feel the US has in recent (Iraq, Afghanistan) and not so recently (Vietnam, El Salvador, Chile) history, interfered on other countries affairs in an unjustified way and often without the consent of the United Nations. I decided to accompany them anyway.
The military cemetery at the Presidio is located on a hill overlooking the Bay Bridge and has probably one of the best views in the world. There were some celebrations happening at the bottom of the hill. We wanted a private observance, so we hiked with the kids all the way up to the highest corner, where there was no one else. We brought two flowers, and each child chose the grave of a soldier, preferably one who had died a very long time ago and had no one visiting him, on which to place the flowers. It was a very meditative morning, in which I learned that Memorial Day is not meant to honor the politicians who send young kids often to the wrong wars, but the duty and sacrifice of the ordinary men and women who participate in them.
We talked with the kids about the importance of diplomacy. I used as an example Diego Cordovez, a diplomat from Ecuador who coincidentally died Saturday may 25 and was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace with Afghanistan years before the wars.
I never thought I would be in an U.S. military cemetery on Memorial Day, but thanks to my husband I went and had a contemplative morning in which we honored life, sacrifice and Peace.