In between family, friends, burgers, beers and innings this weekend, we would all do well to take a moment, long or short, verbal or silent, to deeply thank those we honor on Memorial Day. Enhanced thoughts and prayers for our brothers and sisters serving abroad wouldn’t hurt.
This date was first officially marked as Order No. 11 by Civil War General John Logan to sanction a day of observance already informally practiced at various times in the North and South alike. By the end of WWI, the South finally accepted the national holiday as casualties of the Great War were included with those of the Civil War.
Of course the long weekend also affords those inclined the opportunity to ponder our good fortune, citizenship, nationhood and the imperative of peace. As one who did not serve, I can’t help but feel some guilt on these holidays; my older brother and I ended a military tradition in our parents’ lineage that goes back hundreds of years. We had 5 ancestors fight in the Revolution, one a Hessian working for the Crown. 3 ancestors served in the Civil War including Daniel Urich, a drummer at the head of Sherman’s march to the sea.
My Grandpa Urich shipped with the dough boys in WWI, and was 3 days from the front when the Armistice was declared. Both my late father and late uncle served as naval officers in the Pacific during WWII. Dad was actually called back for the Korean War, but pulled lucky duty in the Mediterranean; too many stories there to digress.
During the Vietnam War, my brother turned 18, registered, was medically cleared and then pulled a high number. Notwithstanding that my grade school friends and I had been playing ‘war’ against Cambodians and Viet Cong, I was glad; I loved my brother and romance aside, I didn’t want to see him hurt or worse. And so the chain was broken; my own draft registration at the post office in 1981 was a mundane formality similar to filing a return.
As I worked through this contrition starting at 6 a.m. this morning, I stumbled upon a possible resolution: could it be that my family and I have enjoyed general peace and prosperity for the bulk of my life as the intended consequence of all my veteran relatives’ acts? Isn’t one of the very purposes of government to protect it’s citizenry so they may lead healthy, happy, productive lives in relative calm and peace?
Most men and women who have actually seen the horrors of war rarely speak of it, even to spouses and loved ones. It is plain that the original intent of a Memorial Day was not to celebrate a jingoistic glorification of war, but to honor and thank those who served and gave all so that more could live free. If one doubts this, page through Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ recite ‘In Flanders Fields’ to yourself or try and pry a war story out of a genuine combat veteran.
Given the above, my humble suggestion for all of us this weekend is to mind our P’s and T’s; Peace and Thank You.