May 29, 2000
Today is the one day each year that we, as a nation, are asked to reflect on our warriors’ legacy. It is a day to recall the war dead. It is an annual national day of commemoration. Called Decoration Day when begun in 1873, and signifying a day each year to decorate the gravesites of deceased veterans, Memorial Day is a day for honoring the men and women whose lives are lost in service to the nation and the nation’s military tasks. For the men who served, for the women who served, it is a day of recollection: of the war scenes they moved through, sometimes played in slow motion; the losses and triumphs; the last words of a soldier; the first words of someone’s child. Today we are each asked to contemplate the significance of sacrifice, the significance of freedom, for which we and others battle. It is a day of dilemma, of giving thanks for the battles won and a day of weeping for those we lost; fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends. We are called to put in perspective the call to duty, the call to arms. We are challenged to find room in our conscience for declaring some battles justified and others not. We are called to task for the war machine that sacrifices lives unnecessarily, making some strip off their bodies as though an extra burden on their backs. We are called to dwell on the battlefield, to pray at the grave. But most of all, we are called to memorialize, obligated to remember, the purpose for which some die that others may live, the reason for the warrior, the just reason for the conquest of any enemy – the purpose of a national defense. Memorial day calls us to solemn judgment. The fallen must be embraced in our hearts, their uniforms having been surrendered to a noble cause. Heroes and cowards, soldiers and lovers, a rally of shadows from our past and future wars to come. Come what may, just let it be of God’s divine plan and our courage made plain. Let it be for right and not wrong, for freedom and nothing less. Oh, sweet surrender, and sweet victory, that those who have fought may rest, and those who have lost loved ones may be soothed by angels’ wings. Coming home to nation, being home in nation. A moment to say thank you and farewell. Welcome home and sweet delivery. God Bless the nation, God bless the soldier, and may God bless us all.
Jill Zohara Meyerhoff Hieronimus