Monday, May 25, 2020

(Happy?) Memorial Day

Isn't it interesting that we say "Happy Memorial Day" when we're recognizing a national holiday to honor and remember those service members and families who served and sacrificed for us? I'm grateful for those brave men and women, but it doesn't feel quite right to say the mood of a day like today is simply "happy" when there is a need for solemnity, not as a matter of obedience but of respect.

M and I tried to make our Memorial Weekend and especially Memorial Day special. We visited the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, worked on genealogy and thought about the veterans in both our families, and took some time to reflect quietly over long walks in the beauty of nature at Great Falls Park and in Georgetown. In this post, I thought I would intersperse photos we took this weekend with quotes, poems, or thoughts that I found worth considering on Memorial Day. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.

I'm embarrassed to say I never knew the story behind Taps until this year, but almost everyone will quickly recognize the tune. It was first played in 1862 during the Civil War and has now become our traditional military funeral melody. You can read the heartbreaking story behind it and listen to it played at Arlington National Cemetery here.

Regardless of political leanings, I hope we can all agree that we owe a lot to the sacrifices of our soldiers. Although we can never repay what we owe, we should strive to build a nation worth serving and a world where the horrors of war are lessened as much as possible. Adlai Stevenson II once said, "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." And on Memorial Day in 1982, Ronald Reagan said, "And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice." (You can read more excerpts from that speech here.)

Many soldiers including some of our loved ones have drawn additional strength from their faith before, during, and after military service. I was struck by this Memorial Day message from Church in 2015 that still resonates today, as well as this linked video about two brothers who struggled with PTSD and addiction after returning from war.

I want to end with a poem called "The Unknown Dead" by Elizabeth Robbins Berry that I liked even as someone who is not a big appreciator of poetry in general. (You can read other Memorial Day poems here.) Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you had a peaceful and sound Memorial Day.

The Unknown Dead by Elizabeth Robbins Berry

Above their rest there is no sound of weeping,
Only the voice of song-birds thrills the air;
Unknown their graves, yet they are in God's keeping,
There are none "missing" from His tender care.

He knows each hallowed mound, and at His pleasure
Marshalls the sentinels of earth and sky;
O'er their repose kind Nature heaps her treasure,
Farmed by soft winds which 'round them gently sigh.

Bravely they laid their all upon the altar,
Counting as naught the sacrifice and pain,
Theirs but to do and die without a falter—
Ours to enjoy the victory and the gain.

They are not lost; that only which was mortal
Lies 'neath the turf o'erarched by Southern skies;
Deathless they wait beyond the heavenly portal,
In that fair land where valor never dies.

In the great heart of coming generations
Their fame shall live, their glory never cease;
Even when comes to all earth's troubled nations
God's perfect gift of universal peace.

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