A few things are on my mind, this Memorial Day: The morphing of the meaning; its’ history; and the many fallen ‘warriors’ of ‘battles’ outside of those killed in military wars.
Maybe it’s the nerd in me being a stickler, but I often find the Day being used as a military/veterans recognition/appreciation day, rather than focusing on those servicepersons who died; and I have to admit it’s a bit of a pet peeve. Don’t get me wrong, either: Veterans and servicepersons definitely deserve their Days/props (proper respects), too. But there are lots of them, for living servicepeople/vet’s: Armed Forces Day, Veteran’s Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day, Military Spouses Day, Month of the Military Child, Days for individual branches (i.e. Army Day, Navy Day, etc.), days for individual wars (i.e. National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day) and so on. It just seems like we tend to make the day into a day-for-barbecues-&-recreation or shopping already that it maybe waters down the intended focus/history of the day further, to throw in everyone-/everything-else military-related, to it?
Speaking of the Day’s history: Did you know that it began as “Decoration Day”? Julia Pierpont is credited with its’ establishment (in fact, Julia Pierpont Day is an official observance in West Virginia, to this day [held on the Saturday before Memorial Day]). Moms who’d lost their sons in early wars spurred on the remembrance efforts. You can learn more about the history of the day at Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/13YgXcQ) History.com (http://bit.ly/13YgLdH) and http://usmemorialday.org.
Doing the health-awareness stuff and following the webpages of those who are faced with illness and disability issues, over the years, I’ve noticed how often people refer to their challenges (or their kids’) as ‘battles’ and to their inspiring children/loved-ones as ‘warriors’ and the-like. I also recall reading that doing-so can be counterproductive, as it takes more energy to battle something than it does to go for something (as in “for a cure” rather than “against disease x” …although the former is apparently now trademarked or something, by a famous breast cancer org?); but I digress. My point is that there are many other ‘wars’ being fought, many other ‘heroes’ to be honored and remembered …and, unfortunately SO many more stellar/heroic children and adults who’ve ‘fallen’ in battle (yet remain victors, in our eyes). Many of these have died of illnesses like cancer/childhood-cancers, congenital heart defects and the like. Some of the ‘battles of the fallen have been swift; others – like the case of a young woman with M.E. I heard about recently (Emily Collingridge, who died in March of 2012 http://bit.ly/Z9PlDu …and others http://bit.ly/13YqyAr) – are years-/decades-/life-long, hard-fought wars which go on invisibly, and remain unrecognized by most, ‘though their impact should not be understated (yet, sadly IS).
Have we been morphing Memorial Day? …and, if so, can we morph it back? Today, I’d like to take some time to remember those who’ve died in military wars/conflicts …as well as those who’ve died in other short and long-term ‘battles’: those mentioned above, and also children and adults who’ve been killed by abusers &/or in domestic violence situations …people who’ve battled hunger and extreme poverty and succumbed because adequate help never arrived (World Hunger Day is May 28, by the way …& there’s a great song by Dionne Warwick and Joe McElderry http://bit.ly/11iOn48) …those who’ve lost their battles with ‘personal demons’ and/or mental illnesses (May is Mental Health Month) …and those who were killed in acts of terrorism (including the recent Boston Bombings, the Aurora theater shootings and the Newtown school shootings) or severe weather (like hurricane Sandy and the devastating Oklahoma tornado). Remembrance is really for those-left-behind as much as it is about honoring those-who’ve-died; so please know that your loved-ones’ service and/or sufferings and, especially, their lives and hopes and dreams and legacies are still important to people out here, this Memorial Day (and all of the days inbetween)!
One small yet significant way to honor the holiday with respect and remembrance is to join in with the observance of it’s counterpart celebration: Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day. It’s a “day of prayer for permanent peace” in which an hour of community prayer is held at 11:00 a.m. (local times); and our National Moment of Remembrance begins at 3:00 p.m. local times. More info is available in its’ 2013 Presidential Proclamation: http://1.usa.gov/Z9ypNb The president’s weekly address is entitled “Giving Thanks to Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day” and can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/13YgBmG (on WH.gov’s YouTube channel).
PS I hope you’ll take a moment to look up some safety info on swimming/boating, grilling, driving/designated-drivers, fireworks safety, ATV’s, camping/fire safety and whatever else might apply to your chosen activities for the day: Get it out of the way, and then go enjoy your holiday! 🙂