If Memory Serves….

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day, celebrated today, the last Monday in May, is observed in remembrance of those who died in service to our country. More accurately, Memorial Day is a national holiday recognizing military personnel who died during war. For many, the memorial aspect is secondary to the barbeques  and pool openings and retail bargains and the unofficial commencement of summer. For others, Memorial Day is about patriotism. For them it is literally about their loved ones being wrapped in the flag.

Decoration Day was initially a day set aside to place flowers or other decorations on the graves of Civil War soldiers. It was not a national holiday at the outset, and Northern states observed Decoration Day on a different day from Southern states. After WW1, the nation as a whole began to commemorate soldiers who died in war, and Memorial Day has become a tragic tradition that unites us in loss, as so many have died in so many wars,with the expectation that there will always be more.

Unlike the Civil War, or even the World Wars , Korea and Vietnam, today the country acknowledges those lost in wars, but many citizens have not experienced the loss personally. Military families are no longer all families. But service should be in all families. Whether or not it is military service, perhaps we can use this Memorial Day to consider service in its myriad possibilities for bettering our communities and our country.

Many people give their lives to service. They may not lose their lives to service, but find that in serving others, they are creating better communities. We need to consider these acts of national pride as well. In addition to military personnel, police and firefighters have chosen careers that put themselves in harm’s way in service to our communities. We should remember them. We should acknowledge them. We should be more connected to those members in our communities who service us. Teachers service us. No, they do not risk life or limb except in unusual circumstances, but the choice to teach kids is in service to our communities and to our nation. We have begun to encourage young people to serve–not just militarily, but in numerous ways in their communities. This Memorial Day, as some decorate graves of fallen soldiers, and others fire up the grill, let us consider the prospect that the term servicemen or servicewomen need not be limited to the military. If memory serves, then let us all be servicemen and servicewomen. Let us give more of our lives without losing them to violence in the name of freedom.

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