Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have given their lives in the service of the country. I wrote about Memorial Day last year on a larger scale – MEMORIAL DAY 2016 – noting the loss of meaning and recognition for the holiday in this time when the responsibility that once attended liberty seems to be among the unknown.
Today, like last year and the years before that throughout this still young century, wars continue to send members of our all-volunteer forces into danger.
Soldiers, marines, airmen, naval and Coast Guard troops still patrol badlands in countries and on oceans far and wide, all in service to an empire of might and influence we claim not to be of our choosing, but one we hold nonetheless, built to protect the materials, wealth, dreams, and travel lanes that make up the base for our and our allies consumptive way of life.
Freedom isn’t free, but who is doing the paying?
In another time in another America the sense of responsibility and gratitude for what the country represented seemed to run much deeper, perhaps because the threat was considered more existential. Below are two diary entries for Memorial Day by a mother whose son had signed up for service shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
May 30, 1942
Another Decoration Day (what Memorial Day was called until 1967) and next year will find millions of new graves, plus the thousands of new this year caused by the war…It breaks my heart to give him to the army, but there are millions of mothers like me who feel the same. But I am also secretly proud that he wanted to go.
My boy left this morning. While he is elated about going across (to Europe), I am heartsick. I tried not to let him see how terribly I felt when he visited. But when I kissed him good-bye at the station, I knew what his dad had felt when he told him good-bye and sent him back to the university. He said, “How would you feel if you felt you had told your boy good-bye for the last time?” And his dad passed away that night.
I am praying that it will be different with us. I do hope this dreadful war will be over before my boy gets into it. A selfish prayer, perhaps, but it is the truth. Anything else I might voice would be untrue, and God reads what is in your heart.
I told him to be firm when you know you are in the right, but never be hard or deliberately hurt someone…I do love you so much, my first little boy. May God bless you and protect you always. I love you dear.
Even as we remember and commemorate the sacrifices made throughout the years by those who came before us, may one mother’s prayer of hope and love expressed three-quarters of a century ago be heard and answered for the many thousands of mothers who await the safe return of their sons and daughters on this Memorial Day 2017.