today in black history

May 23, 2024

Actor and musician Benjamin Sherman "Scatman" Crothers was born on this date in 1910 in Terra Haute, Indiana.

Study War No More

POSTED: May 31, 2010, 12:00 am

  • POST
    • Add to Mixx!
  • Text Size
  • PDF

Across the nation Americans will spend hours in their backyards and in parks barbecuing and enjoying a day off from work as the nation pauses for Memorial Day. A more solemn activity will take place in cemeteries and war memorials as family and friends offer prayers for men and women who lost their lives in military service to our nation. It is a day that no matter your political ideology, partisan leaning or religious affiliation, should cause one to honor men and women who have committed the ultimate act of patriotism.

I am not a proponent of war. Never have been, never will be. As a child in elementary school, images of the Vietnam War that I saw every night on the news moved me to write President Lyndon B. Johnson and ask him some pointed questions on why our nation was at war. I was in Times Square marching the night our nation went to combat in the first Gulf War and my brother was serving in the Marines. A high school classmate and friend, Curtis Wade, would be among the last soldiers killed in the Gulf conflict. Months before President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq I appeared on CNN, the Fox News Channel and wrote on this website of my opposition to what I considered was an illegal encroachment of a sovereign nation. I continue to support the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and the end of hostilities in the Middle East.

Even with my obvious opposition to war, I have always understood the necessity of the military. I do understand that there have been and will be instances when armed conflict is unavoidable. I believe the conflict in Afghanistan is one of those necessary exceptions. My opposition against the invasion of Iraq was that the Bush administration conveniently used the nation’s anger over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack to justify its offensive against the Baath regime. To this day, I believe that President George W. Bush, spurred on by operatives in his administration, was settling a personal score with Saddam Hussein.

I understand the need for military service from a personal perspective too. My brother is not the only member of my family to have served this country. My great grandfather, a slave from North Carolina, fought for his freedom, and mine, when he served in the Civil War as a member of the Union Army. My father, Walter Fields, Sr., served in the Army, in segregated troops, during World War II at a time when Blacks fought for principles that were not adhered to when they returned home. An uncle served in the Marines and an aunt was one of the pioneering Black women who were WAVES, supporting the Navy when women could not to serve. Military service is not anathema to me, the questionable use of force is.

“We should also pray for our nation and world, for the day when we will “study war no more,” and we will live in the perfect peace that God intended.”

Still, I approach Memorial Day with a reverence for its significance and an appreciation for those who shed blood and died defending this nation. Their deaths are acts of valor and selflessness that should never be dismissed or unappreciated. Every American should visit a war memorial in the nation’s capital or in their home state. I remember how moved I was when I first visited the Vietnam War Memorial on the Mall soon after its completion, and even though I did not personally know any of the war dead, was moved to tears at the sight of those names inscribed in Black granite. I recall the sight of Arlington National Cemetery and being overwhelmed, and thinking about not only the soldiers interred but also the family and friends they left behind as well. Is there nothing more poignant than the “arrival” ceremony at Dover Air Force base and seeing a flag draped coffin carried off a C-130 transport jet by the deceased’s comrades?

Too many Americans treat Memorial Day as just another day off. It is not. We need to remember its true purpose and pray for those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the freedom and lifestyles we too often take for granted. We should also pray for our nation and world, for the day when we will “study war no more,” and we will live in the perfect peace that God intended.

I’m going to lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Going to lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Ain’t going to study war no more

Follow Walter Fields on Twitter at and Facebook at

Related References on Facebook