Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
It’s Memorial Day in America, a day to honor those who fell fighting for America. When I was growing up this was a solemn occasion, and most of the time I was marching in a parade with the Girl Scouts, laying a wreath at one of the many memorial sites dotted through my town.
My family was full of veterans, but we were a lucky family. The last one to die was my grandmother’s fiance, killed in France in 1918. The man she ultimately married was torpedoed more than once during WWII but lived to tell the tale, as did all the uncles, aunts and cousins who have served all the way through Afghanistan and Iraq.
But all those who had served had lost someone, and as children we were not allowed to forget that. Yes, there would be a barbecue later in the day, but not until the solemn rites were fulfilled.
I don’t march anymore, but I do remember every year. These days, our society has a troubled relationship with our armed forces and war in general. There are good reasons for questioning some of America’s latest wars, but never have I doubted the sacrifice of those who did go, who heeded the call and paid the ultimate price.
But as long as there are wars and our men and women are dying, I can not forget. I hope that in the future, generations will forget the horror of war and the war dead will be nothing but lines in a history book like the dead Peloponnesians are to us today.
But until then, remember.