Ask Pastor Adrienne
I'm a little confused about Memorial Day. Every year our church honors the Veterans on Memorial Day; but don't we have Veteran's Day for that?
A: You're not alone in the confusion. For many of us who've lived our lives without the pressing threat of a war-time draft, we've celebrated Memorial Day as a simple day of remembrance. But for generations who endured national and international theaters of combat ... from the Civil War to Vietnam ... "Decoration Day" in the 1860s, which later became Memorial Day, was an important time to honor those who died fighting for their country and cause.
Children born in the late seventies or eighties have a completely different perspective on Memorial Day since few, if any of their peers became casualties of war. In their childhoods, they spent Memorial Day traipsing through cemeteries with parents and grandparents looking for the graves of those they knew, not necessarily fallen soldiers. As a result, the more recent generation of young people thought Memorial Day was about paying homage to deceased relatives. Like the Decoration Day mourners before them, they carried flowers and wreaths and placed them against the headstones, in a stationery urn or on the grass near the markers. Thus, a holiday that began as an important day to honor those who'd fallen in the line of duty became a day off work to honor anyone who died. Memorial Day may be the only holiday in our culture that has changed and expanded its original purpose due to the wonderful blessing of international peace.
Yes, it seems our war veterans have two holidays and why not? One could say that we celebrate Memorial Day to honor the war-dead; and Veteran's Day to honor the war-living. Speaking for myself, with two Uncles who graduated from West Point, each serving in a handful of combat tours in Korea and Vietnam as well as, a brother who survived the Iraq War, I'm proud to have any chance to honor what soldiers endured, sacrificed and won for my country and me. What my relatives and countless others accomplished, for instance, gave me the freedom to live in a society where writing for a newspaper won't land me in prison or cost my life if I speak my mind and have an opinion. It's true: our unique American freedoms are not free and never have been. America came into this world fighting for independence. Should our country ever fall, I have no doubt we will defend our flag right down to the last man (or woman.)
Memorial Day is about honor. It is designed as a patriotic time to think of those we've lost in wars; then acknowledge their service through graveside memorials, thankfulness toward the armed forces in uniform and prayers for the ones yet overseas. Memorial Day is also a time to honor anyone who has gone home to their final rest. Honor is a rare and precious form of respect we don't often see today. Let's take the time to give it.
Adrienne Greene pastors a small community of faith in West Harrison, IN. Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Please send your inquiries to: <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030.