It is the unofficial start of summer or, here in Michigan, the date which we can plant flowers without the threat of frost. Stores have Memorial Day sales and families gather for backyard barbecues. But that is not the intended purpose for Memorial Day. It is not a day we honor those who have served, although it is kind to acknowledge their service, and it certainly isn't a day that "Happy" should be placed in front of. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country, and this year marks the 150th anniversary of this important day of remembrance. The staggering numbers of lives sacrificed in the service of our country should be enough to give pause to anyone. The chart below is from a post dated 2015 so the number in the Global War on Terror category is sadly higher than listed here. The bloodiest battle in US history was the Battle of the Argonne Forest that claimed 26,277 American lives and left 95,786 wounded, according to the military.com. Setting aside a day to remember seems to be a charitable but feeble attempt to express gratitude for the many men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.
I recently had a conversation with a member of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). After I gave a small donation he offered me an artificial poppy. I told him about our visit the Flanders Fields in Belgium and the continuing gratitude of the people there. He was moved by their appreciation for the sacrifice of Americans during both World Wars. We discussed the work the VFW does for veterans. He proudly told me about his work helping local veterans and serving on the honor guard that participates in veteran's funerals. He told me about local memorials and the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. We talked and talked and I look forward to talking to him again, hopefully soon. He still serves veterans and he actively looks for ways to help because he made it home. Not everyone he served with did.
A take away from our conversation is that there are people who are concerned about caring for and showing continued support for veterans. Unfortunately, their resources aren't as limitless as their gratitude so the good they can do is limited. There are also organizations that are dedicated to honoring the fallen such as the National Cemetery Association and the American Battle Monuments Commission, but they too have limited resources.
This Memorial Day set aside some time to pray and reflect upon the sacrifice that others have made so that you can enjoy the sweet freedom we all hold dear. Consider donating to a memorial fundraiser like The United States World War One Centennial Commission. (They are trying to raise enough money for a World War I monument in Washington D.C. The donation amount $11.11 is in remembrance of the end of the war on 11.11.1918.) Look for events that honor the fallen and attend with family and friends before heading off to that barbecue. Together, we can look back with gratitude so we can look forward with courage and optimism.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."