May 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

The Meaning of Memorial Day

There are days in the annual calendar that deserve more than we give them.  Much more.  While parades pay tribute, flags wave, wreaths are laid, families visit grave sites, somehow all of this is still not enough.  It is not enough because simply saying thank you is not enough.  This is a day when persons have fought and still are fighting for basic principles of freedom and democracy.   This is a time when patriotic flag waving seems appropriate, but it pales when we consider deeply what it all means and symbolizes.

Memorial Day means that we memorialize those who joined and then took on the gruesome and terrible thing known as war. They did it to “serve their country.”  They did it out of a deep need that maybe they can’t even articulate.  They did it because they wanted to do it, had to do it.  They did it because they love their country.  They love the family from which they came.  They love the things that make up America.  They love what it means to be an American.

Those living, who served,  know something the rest of us cannot fathom.  We cannot know the profound comradeship they feel for those who served with them, but no longer live.  They know deep in their hearts what it means to be on the front lines, to risk life and limb, to shake from the fear of the next pummeling missiles which fall all around you.  They know the dread of waiting for the next attack, of hearing the next rumble of planes as they soar overhead, to hold tight to your buddy who is shaking from a wound and the fear that goes with dying.

Nothing we can do is enough.  Nothing we say, really says it.  Nothing we try to piece together in the form of a dedicated celebration is really sufficient.

Every Day is Memorial Day

Our feelings need to surface with genuine respect and regard, every time we pass a soldier who is home on leave. We need to stop them and to say, with whatever words we clumsily can utter, how grateful we are for them and their sacrifices.  I sat by one such young man in  an airport not too long ago.  He confessed to his anxiety and doubt about fighting in the wars of recent date.  But, still he goes.  No matter the folly of policy and the insensitivity of politics, they still go.  They still try to wrap America in a garment of security, that they are committed to provide.

Perhaps the most we can do this Memorial Day is to begin taking seriously what a credible and genuine role a civilian can play. Perhaps we can quit joining in the games made popular by those who exploit issues and manipulate politics.  Perhaps we can start listening to what is being said by veterans, just returned, who make transparent the real issues of war and its consequences.  Perhaps we can demonstrate more compassion to families and children and parents and the soldiers themselves as they try to come home to some semblance of peace and hope for a better world.

What we can do is care and care deeply that we are a part of a terrible time when human beings are in a terrible place and are being asked to do terrible things.  What we can do is raise our flags and voices for a time when those who serve can be excused from having to give any more than they have already given.  When we can believe that our democracy can be preserved and protected in ways other than a constant shedding of blood, maybe then we will be heard for the genuine support and care we have for those who have had to do just that.

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