Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014




Memorial Day is when we honor those who died in battle. It has in some cases turned into a day celebrating all who have served and/or are still serving in the Armed Forces. Since 911, some services include emergency services workers because so many firefighters died trying to save those in the New York towers.

The day has its origins in the Civil War, with the first official Decoration Day, as the day used to be called, occurring on May 30, 1968. On that day, the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers were covered with flowers at Arlington National Cemetery.

However, many southern states had already begun honoring their war dead prior before then, and a number of towns and cities lay claim to being the first to do so. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY, as the official birthplace of the holiday, citing an ongoing celebration that began in 1866.

Most northern states recognized the day after the 1868 declaration, but the southern states did not do so until after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring those who fought in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died while serving their country.

The day did not become an officially recognized federal holiday until 1971. You can read about this history at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
To my knowledge, I have no immediate family members who died in service, though a number have served. My grandfather fought in World War II and my father served in Korea, as did his two brothers. I have two other uncles who have been life-long military. I have thanked many a soldier for his or her service, and I have secretly paid for ice cream for one or two on occasion.

I am, however, deeply opposed to war. I have no problem remembering those who have fought and died for this country, and if people chose to go into the military that is their prerogative. I respect them for that choice, just as I hope they respect me for my stance that opposes their dying. I would rather have them alive, and if that makes me naïve, then I am naïve.

Killing and fighting solves nothing. We are all one, a part of this planet, and brothers and sisters of the world. We should not be destroying one another over land, oil, or other spoils. Bloodshed demeans all of us.

What would happen, I have often wondered, if those who fight simply . . . stopped. It can happen. In 1914, at Christmas, soldiers stopped fighting. They climbed from their trenches and enemies greeted one another with "Merry Christmas." They exchanged gifts of whatever they had on hand. They sang carols and played soccer. This is a true story and a perfect example of what could be, if we only had the will to make it so.

May all those who died fighting for their causes rest in peace. May the rest of us work toward a better world, so that no one else must die for those causes or any other. That is my hope for today, and for all of the tomorrows to come.

Death Be Not Proud
By John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee  
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,  
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,  
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.  
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,  
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,  
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.  
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,  
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,  
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;  
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,  
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the info, Anita. It's often unfortunate that we have to have days such as this to remind folks to remember those fallen heroes of all types.

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