Memorial Day, known as “Decoration Day” until the early 1900s, was a major celebration when I was in elementary school. Later, it seemed to become just another day to take off from school or work, and perhaps plan a picnic. Do our children really know why we honor our military personnel, both dead and alive, on that day? Do their parents know?
A memorial is something we do or make to honor the memory of a person or event. We generally think of that person as a hero, someone who has made an impact on our lives. That could be a parent, a teacher, an aunt or uncle, a friend, and not always someone who played the principal character in our lives.
Who have been some of the heroes during our lives? What did they teach us? Which of those heroes are still a part of our ideal for ourselves? Many of these real-life heroes took us by the hand and led us through our journey of life.
And each of us can be, may be, a hero to someone else. We will never know the influence we have on another person. Being a hero is being able to know yourself, to acknowledge your weaknesses and limitations.
The heroes today are all around us. Many children look to their parents as heroes. In spite of their flaws, I was no different.
Other heroes are those who have been called to serve in the military. As a mother who has borne sons and daughters, with granddaughters and grandsons, I can support and honor those warriors, while objecting to the wars they fight. I believe, perhaps naively, that there is a way to live in peace, in “shalom.”
I don’t mean to say that fathers are not also for peace! It’s just that I can’t speak as a father. I come from a family of peace-loving people who loved their country and wanted to make this a peaceful country.
My family has chosen to serve this country in a variety of ways. Please check out my brother’s post for today on www.inkwatu.com for more information on the Jones/Hilton family history of serving.
I’m not certain about all my ancestors, but I do know that as ministers during the Civil War, my great-great-greats fought to free slaves. My father’s brother, my Uncle Joe, served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army during World War II. He also served in Korea – and in Vietnam twice. His way of serving was to continue to preach Peace.
My father tried to serve in WW II, also as a Chaplain, but at age 34, they said he was too old. My former husband was a physician in the Navy; he chose to serve as a healer rather than a warrior.
During the last years of the Vietnam war, my son-in-law, my daughter’s fiancé at the time, fought fires with the Conservation Corps in California as a Conscientious Objector.
The older of my two sons served four years in the United States Coast Guard because he said he would rather “guard our coast” than to be put into a killing field. As a Navy Chief, he also served as a Sea Bee (Construction Battalion) in Iraq twice, and in Afghanistan once, trying to help rebuild what has been destroyed. One of his own daughters (my granddaughter) is now serving in the U.S. Navy as a Yeoman.
When my then husband was serving in the Navy, we spent three of his service years on Guam (1966-1969) during a major escalation of the Vietnam war. When we first moved there, the hospital had one or two air evacs per week of injured active duty personnel from Vietnam. By the end of the three years, there were three to four or more per day!
Because we lived next door to the hospital, the only place my children could go to the movies was there at the hospital theater. But they would come home and tell me about sitting next to some young man with both legs and one arm blown off. No child should have to live with that, not my children, not your children, not the child of an Iraqi or Afghani mother! One friend said that “maybe they do” need to see it in order not to perpetuate this craziness.
I tell you this background so you know I don’t come from an idealistic place that is out of touch with the reality of our world. During my “hippy-trippy” days, I wore the following medal produced by “Another Mother for Peace.” It is just as valid today as it was in the 60s and 70s.
The concept of peace shows up in a variety of words. In Greek it is eirene, in Arabic it is salem. Most of us may be more familiar with the Hebrew – shalom! Often we think of it as simply a greeting, much like aloha or hello. And all of these words have been interpreted by us to mean “peace,” although it is a peace that is more than the mere absence of war.
So on this Memorial Day when we remember these heroes and recall the wars and periods of shalom, I will sit with my cup of tea and enjoy the gentle and peaceful, soft blue of my agapanthus.