Although Memorial Day was first celebrated to remember the war dead from the U.S. Civil War, it was eventually celebrated to remember those lost in all wars. It was meant to be a day of somber reflection and reconciliation. Unfortunately, each year there are more men and women to remember. Michael N. Castle once stated, “These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.” Allen West isn’t happy that the meaning of the day is being lost. He writes, “While there are towns and cities still planning Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some think the day is for honoring anyone who has died, not just those fallen in service to our country.”
On this day we certainly should honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to their country; but, I don’t think it is a bad thing to honor and remember all those who have passed before us. Centuries ago John Milton wrote, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” To Milton, who had gone blind, this meant that everyone has a place in this world and, through whatever honest labor they perform, they help built the society in which they live. That service also deserves recognition. This Memorial Day is particularly poignant in light of terrorist attacks during the Boston Marathon and the recent devastating tornado in Oklahoma that took so many lives.
Perhaps the best way we can honor the dead this Memorial Day is by contributing to help the living whose lives have been thrown into chaos. One of the organizations that is first to the scene of a disaster and offering help is the American Red Cross. If you want to donate to the Red Cross, you do so by clicking on this link.
As sobering as it is to remember our dead, it would be foolish to deny that Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of summer. That means many of you will be celebrating the day with family and friends with cookouts and activities. There is nothing wrong with that either. Those who have gone before us expect us to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Have a safe and memorable holiday.