The last Monday in May always fills me with mixed emotions. It is a day when we remember those that have fallen in the service of our country and those that stood up for our rights and freedoms. I don’t know if I could have done what my father and his generation did in World War II – to pay the price they paid both in the dying and in the living. I don’t know if I could have served like the friends of my siblings in Vietnam – a war filled with all of the sacrifice and none of the purpose or praise. And as I watch my daughter’s friends go off to military academies, I don’t know if I could bear to see my children experience whatever they will face in battles to come. What I do know is that I am proud of how my father served and thankful for all of those that have sacrificed, regardless of where they fought or what role they played.
And yet, Memorial Day also reminds me in both subtle and visceral ways of the tragedy and pain that comes with all conflicts. In the world wars of the 20th century, we mostly heard about the valor and bravery – leaving the pain, suffering, and aftermath for those involved to experience alone. For better or worse, our modern media tools are now more capable and the sorrow of battles fought, the plight of refugees, and the challenges faced by veterans are much more real. Although that is painful, it reminds us that “fighting for what we believe in” is a difficult and challenging phrase – one that we cannot take lightly.
Because when we send our men and women to fight, we must all understand exactly what that means. As I wrote in United We Stand, there are battles that must be waged and true evil that must be stopped. We just need the grace and enlightenment to choose wisely and remember those whose lives will change forever as a result of our decisions.
In the end, Memorial Day is a time to honor those who came before us, and on this Memorial Day, I will reflect on two things. The first is one of my early blog posts written a year ago – In Memoriam is a tribute to my father and to all mothers and fathers who serve. My dad was rightly proud of what he did, and yet I think he kept all of those memories tucked away never to be shared so that he didn’t have to relive the pain.
My second reflection came late last night as I was restlessly browsing the news. This article from Ian Shapiro in the Washington Post and my blog post last week says everything you need to know about the Dutch, strength of character, and the significance of Memorial Day. In reference to the latter significance of Memorial Day, “[The Dutch] haven’t forgotten. For 70 years, they have come to a verdant U.S. cemetery outside [Margraten, Netherlands] to care for the graves of Americans killed in World War II.” With a waiting list of over 100, this is a great testament to the power of the human spirit and the communion we can build with others around the world.
Take a moment to say a prayer and remember…