As I look upon my overburdened work calendar and mentally insert the upcoming bridal showers, birthday parties, picnics and other events, I anxiously seek a glimmer of hope — the elusive day off!
Ah, there it is! It is even in this very month! Oh wonder of wonders to find one of those sweet little nuggets on my calendar! Perhaps I’ll even squeak in a day off on the Friday before and bask in a four-day weekend. The possibilities are endless for the upcoming Memorial Day celebrations.
And now I think about the day. Memorial Day. Sadly I wonder how many people will take a little time to consider why, back in 1868, a general by the name of John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868, as a day which was, and I quote: “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”
In the General’s Orders No. 11, dated May 5, 1868, it goes on in detail to describe the fallen by stating, “Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms.”
He goes on to state that adorning the graves is a “fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders” and that no amount of time should allow “that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic” and he calls us to “raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.”
Wow. While I’ve always been aware that Memorial Day was a day for memorializing those who lost their lives while serving in our Armed Forces, I think I failed to realize it was also a day to renew a pledge to support and assist the families they left behind. I wonder how often we think of widows and orphans.
It’s likely that unless we personally know someone who has lost a spouse while serving our country we may not think it is our responsibility or obligation to support them. It has been said that, "freedom comes with a price." The general specifically tells us not to forget the "cost of being a free and undivided republic."
We’ve heard the arguments regarding going to war for decades. The actual dollar cost to send our military personnel and supplies abroad is enormous. But there is no price that can be put on the loss of a life. There is no amount of money that can replace a beloved husband; no dollar amount that will make a fatherless boy feel better about not having his dad there to throw a ball with.
Both moms and dads serve our country and they both fall in service. The call to support widows and orphans is not a new one. The apostle James writes in his first chapter that God sees those who “look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep themselves from being polluted by the world as pure and faultless.” James 1:27.
This Memorial Day will you decorate a fallen soldiers resting place? Will you pledge to aid and assist the fallens’ loved ones? Will you make it a point to remember that the privilege of living in a democratic society and the freedom of choice we have in our daily routines came at a cost?
I am personally proud and have great respect for the family members who came before me and served this country with honor. They saw it as a privilege, and in my opinion, we should see it as a debt to pay.
Oh, and that four-day weekend? It's just taken on a whole new meaning for me.
For more information regarding the background of Memorial Day please visit http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html. To learn more about what you can do to support children of fallen soldiers, please visit Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund at http://www.cfsrf.org. If you are a widow of a fallen soldier and need assistance, please visit http://www.vba.va.gov/survivors/.