What is the purpose of Remembrance day? Many will respond with words like, ‘peace’, ‘honor’, ‘respect’, ‘freedom’, and ‘sacrifice’. Although these are all accurate, I argue that the core of remembrance day is ‘duty’.
The concept of duty has become unpopular in an age defined by freethinking, self-expression, and individual economic pursuits. Actually, type ‘duty’ into Google image-search and you’ll quickly realize we’ve turned it into a game: ‘Call of Duty’. In our modern age, we’ve lost a sense of collectivity that was built into traditional institutions such religious communities. Although this increasingly individualistic environment characterizes civilian life as a whole, the culture of the military remains highly collectivist, placing duty and service as its highest ideals.
Remembering duty is about remembering our social commitment to causes larger than ourselves. This core sentiment characterizing military-life makes us our best and most passionate selves. In War, Sebastian Junger writes:
“Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up… to a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake…. These hillsides of loose shale and holly trees are where the men feel not most alive… the most utilized. The most necessary. The most clear and certain and purposeful. If young men could get that feeling at home, no one would ever want to go to war again…”
We must remember duty in order to remember our own humanity. This ‘humanity’ is the part of us that longs to belong to a cause greater then ourselves; the part of ourselves that requires a meaningful sense of direction; the part of ourselves that is capable of giving up our own self-interest for another. We remember those who fought because of their incredible sense of duty; but we must also remember this sense of duty in ourselves in civilian-life, lest we forget out own humanity.