Thoughts On Memorial Day
The origins of Memorial Day can be traced back to the 1860s when it was designated as Decoration Day – a day to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers both Union and Confederate. About a century later it was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May and renamed “Memorial Day”.
Since that time it has marked both a day of remembrance and the opening of the Summer season. On this day much merriment will be made, sales will be made, and barbeques will be lit. In addition – and no doubt more importantly – honor will be rendered to those who have given the last full measure of devotion to their country. It is, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, all together fitting and proper that we should do this.
I spent the first twenty years of my life in and around the United States Army. Father Cordeiro was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant shortly after I was born. Because of the nomadic existence inherent in the life of a soldier’s family, for all intents and purposes I have no hometown. When people ask me where I’m from, I simply reply, “I’m from the United States Army.” Thus, though I have not worn my country’s uniform, those who do and have are and always shall be – to me anyway – family.
On the National Mall in Washington DC there is a beautiful monument dedicated to those of the Greatest Generation who fought in the last truly Global War. The World War II Memorial is truly a stunning piece of architecture and symbolism. The centerpiece of the monument is a field of 4,000 stars upon which is inscribed this simple phrase:
Here We Mark The Price Of FreedomEach of the 4,000 stars represents 100 soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines who died in World War II. To save you the math, it equates to roughly 400,000 lives. That was the price paid for freedom some six decades ago. About two years ago I took my family to that memorial. As I watched my then three-year old daughter Corderinha toddle across the ground in front of the star field it made me realize just how big a price freedom really is.
This Memorial Day finds the nation again at war. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have been and will be deployed to fight that war. I’ve sometimes found myself unsure exactly how to thank these countrymen of mine for the service they so gallantly render. Yes, there are military charities like Soldier’s Angels and the Semper Fi Fund that do God’s work for the servicemen and women wounded in the line of duty and their families. I highly recommend both of them to you.
On a more personal level, some time ago as I passed through the cavernous labyrinth that is Chicago’s O’Hare Airport I stopped for an overpriced and under-flavored meal. As I finished my meal and prepared to jog down the terminal hall to board my flight, a soldier sat down in the booth across from me. It was obvious to me he was returning from a deployment, possibly on leave but I didn’t have time to ask. The most I could do at that particular point in time was to buy him another round of Miller Lite – which I did. It wasn’t much, but I hope on that day and in that situation it was enough.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln.Here endeth the lesson.