OpinionJournal.com presents a Memorial Day essay by Christopher Hitchens. Here's a taste:
it was only after the doughboys returned in 1918 that the former Confederate states dropped their boycott of America's original "Memorial Day," proclaimed by Union commander Gen. John Logan in May 1868. And here one can note the bizarre manner in which war--which is division by definition--exerts its paradoxically unifying effect. If it is "the health of the state," as was sardonically said by that great foe of "Mr. Wilson's war," Randolph Bourne, then it can also be an agent of emancipation and nation-building and even (as was proved after 1945) of democracy. But even this reflection can never abolish the insoluble problem: how to estimate the value of those whose lives were cruelly cut off before victory was in sight. It is sometimes rather lazily said that these soldiers "gave" their lives. It would be equally apt, if more blunt, to say that they had their lives taken. Humanity has been grappling with this conundrum ever since Pericles gave his funeral oration, and there would have been many Spartan and Melian widows and orphans who would have been heartily sickened by those Athenian-centered remarks.