Have you had a chance to see the tomb of the unknown soldier? It is written on the tomb that “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” It also reminded me of new unknown soldiers against another type of war, the Covid-19 pandemic. Who is this unknown soldier now? We always honor the genuine valor of men and women who, throughout our history, have made the ultimate sacrifice for the country and the world. Those who survive the war are always haunted by the memory of those they lost – the friends who never came home. Among these set of new heroes we should remember are custodians, the chefs, grocery store workers, nurses and doctors, first responders, the ER team, immigrant farmworkers, lab techs, bus drivers, cashiers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, power company employees, government workers, police, firefighters, volunteers and on and on – all those who lost their lives during this battle.
Unless we remind ourselves of the good that we have lost, it is not easy to imagine a better future. Alexander the great once said, “if you conquer fear, you can conquer death.” Of course, this is easier when you are facing a known enemy. A pandemic causes fear among even the bravest of all due to dealing with an invisible enemy.
Today’s pandemic was announced to the world on December 2019. My mind remembers December of 1941, a date which FDR said will “live in infamy.” Today’s war also started abruptly. To do something about this war is as important as it was in the last war. What President FDR said at that time still resonate to this day. “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” The medical community and scientific community are trying different methods of therapies. If the methods did not work, then admit it and try something else but above all they are trying something. During this war, we are together united to defeat the virus. We as a people will get to the promised land, which brings safety and security when we find a cure for this disease or vaccination. We are interconnected with the rest of the world. It challenges us on many frontiers, but we are not only try to find a medical cure but also keeping our faith in this darkest time. After all what is faith if it does not endure when we are tested the most. Thomas Aquinas said, if the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would leave it in port forever. Many in this battle against covid-19 acted not only individually but also collectively like those captains who go through stormy weather with whatever we have in our ability. The difference of 1941-1945 and this war is at that time we were the arsenal of democracy for the world but in this new battle we do not have enough PPE to protect our first responders. It is amazing that despite the lack of PPE, our first responders and medical professionals make sacrifices and even literally sacrifice themselves for the greater good, which is the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. They are the real unknown soldiers of this war. When things get tough on the battlefield in hospitals and frontlines, they never say they won’t engage. They ENGAGED, and during this battle, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.
History showed us at one point, we had a shortage of supplies for our soldiers during Valley Forge; but the shortage we see today is unprecedented in this century. First Responders are doing their part despite this shortages and history will remember them as it remembered the sacrifices President George Washington endured when he was actively fighting with the soldiers and rather than staying at home in a mansion.
A new era has started with international cooperation for a common good at least among all scientists and medical professionals. It seems that we might need another unknown soldier memorial wall for those who perished this time and no one knows their names. “Honoring and Keeping Faith with the world’s missing Servicemen and Servicewomen, 2019-present time” and the battle will continue. You can help to prevent more loss of these unknown soldiers in this time by just trying to do one thing, social distancing and shelter-in-place and gradual careful opening of state and economy. I will repeat part of what Twila Paris said in her song:
This is a time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here
Carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together
Be strong and courageous. Strength does not come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you could not do.