It's upon us again – Memorial Day Weekend and the gateway to summer. Most of us greet this three-day-weekend by dusting off the camping gear, pulling out the grill, and hopping into our boats to set out for fun in the sun - creating new summertime memories in the process.
And speaking of memories, let us not forget the real purpose of Memorial Day that makes this three-day-weekend possible. This coming Monday, I hope we all remember to create a time and a moment in our happy-go-lucky weekend activities to reflect and honor those who have lost their lives in service to our country. In fact, if you have children present with you, it may be a great time to begin a conversation about the purpose of Memorial Day, so they never forget the real reason for the day.
There are a few subjects you can discuss with not only the children in your lives, but with the adults in your circle of friends and family. One option is to look back at the history of Memorial Day and how it came to be.
In my research, I found some interesting information from the history.com website. It may make for interesting discussion around the picnic table or camp fire and provide that moment of honor and remembrance.
Did you know that one of the first known public tributes to those who died serving their country occurred in 431 B.C.? It is stated that the Athenian General, Pericles, delivered a funeral address praising those killed in the Peloponnesian War. It is also stated that his speech on that day has been compared to the influential manner of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Did you know that women’s groups and the freed slaves of the south are the ones who sparked the idea of “Decoration Day” – a day set aside annually to honor those who lives were taken during the Civil War? Technically, the praise is given to General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic. However, as the history website stated, “In April 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year—a decision that seems to have influenced John Logan to follow suit, according to his own wife.” The first Decoration Day, of which Memorial Day came into being, was established on May 30, 1868.
It wasn’t until the Act of 1968 finally went into effect, moving Memorial Day from its traditional observance on May 30, to be observed on the last Monday of the month. This move, even fifty years later, has created great unease for many. Veterans groups are concerned, and rightfully so, that Americans associate the holiday with the first long weekend of the summer and not its intended purpose to honor the nation’s war dead. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became an official federal holiday to honor all veterans who gave their lives.
I have said it before and I will say it again. I prefer peace and civility over war. I think it is safe to say that we all do. But many sacred texts admit that there is a time for peace and a time for war. Even Lao Tzu, the author of the “Tao Te Ching” who was completely against war and violence, admits in his 31st verse of the “Tao” that one should use arms “only as a last resort”; thereby admitting that sometimes we must protect ourselves, our love ones and our nation from harm.
So, whether you are for war or for peace – the fact is that we all know someone who has given their life for our freedom to choose the life we have now. As a result, no matter what fun weekend adventure you find yourself participating, please take a moment and remember those who gave their lives – both those you have known as well as for those you’ve never met.
This insight is dedicated to the memory of my Father, Lester F. Noll, who served in World War II in England. Thank you.