THIS IS MEMORIAL DAY—when our values converge, but also separate in deeply felt ways. Add in the highly charged issues around our current military engagements, plus anger over the poor treatment of veterans—and we find ourselves thoughtfully differing with friends. That’s my story this week—but first …
TODAY, across the ReadTheSpirit Web site, there’s an array of viewpoints on Memorial Day—please, share your thoughts.
OUR OTHER RESOURCES: On the main ReadTheSpirit page, there’s a commentary by the pacifist writer Johann Christoph Arnold. ALSO, here at OurValues.org, we’ve been talking with readers for a week now about the tragic treatment of American veterans. Scroll down to read those stories.
Then, right here, I’ve got story to share about what seems like a simple neighborhood Memorial Day observance—like one near you. But the truth is more complicated than that. Please, tell us what you think.
This story is one of those remarkable convergences that only can occur in a public forum like OurValues.org. A week ago, I launched a series of provocative reflections on the way we treat our military—and our veterans. From the beginning, I was planning a story for today on how my own neighborhood Memorial Day observance disappoints me. These are close-to-the-heart issues for me, because members of my family have fought for our country all the way back to
1812. My family fought on both sides of the
Civil War. Today, I have cousins who are—or have been—in Iraq and
Here’s what I was planning to say today about my decision, this year, to skip my own neighborhood’s observance:
My neighborhood’s observance of Memorial Day is a small, informal,
Mayberry-like affair. I almost expect Sheriff Andy Taylor to make a
It starts with a parade of sorts, somewhat disorganized, led by a few local officials with the obligatory troops
of boy scouts and girl scouts, a marching band and hordes of kids on
decorated bikes. Along the way, kids scramble for candy tossed by some
of the marchers.
The parade wends its way through the streets,
ending at a local park. There, we line up along a roped-off corridor to
watch an honor guard, listen to the playing of taps, and hear an
official read a list of the names and hometowns of Michigan service men
and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past year.
I’ve never recognized any of the names, though I know where all the hometowns are around the state. We feel sad for a few minutes, shaking our heads at the loss and tragedy.
we eat donuts supplied by the local grocery store, feel better, and forget
the somber observances. Soon, it will be time for beer and brats in our
After writing all of these posts on the plight of
our veterans, and reading the comments our readers made, I’m feeling now that our little observance of Memorial Day is a sham. I feel hypocritical. We let others fight our nation’s battles and neglect
the broken and battered veterans who return. We feel we’re caring sufficiently for these men and women by inviting our children to decorate their bikes once a year and munch on donuts with our neighbors.
It’s not enough. It doesn’t feel appropriate to me anymore and, this year, with all that’s in my heart and mind I don’t think I can go.
BUT THEN, and this is the remarkable gift of this kind of public forum—a neighbor of mine who reads OurValues.org felt moved last week to post a comment about her own sincere compassion for our troops. She had no idea what I planned to write for Memorial Day. In her comment, she described “our” Memorial Day observance, as well. BUT, here’s what Dee wrote:
I’m not sure why veterans are not given the respect that they deserve in our country, but I do know that when I go to our little neighborhood Memorial Day Parade each year, I get very emotional when we honor the veterans.
This parade is so hokey and yet so-o-o American. It is truly a neighborhood parade with politicians, Brownies and Cub Scouts, decorated bikes, one firetruck and one police car, and of course, a handful of veterans. The parade ends up at a neighborhood park where we gather around as names of local enlisted military people are read along with those who have given their life this past year protecting our country. Then a few words are said and taps are played, followed by everyone heading for the donuts!
What a grand way to teach our children and to remind us adults that there are people out there who are doing something to keep our country safe. I feel a deep respect for all who are in the military and greatly appreciate their service. This fun parade on a somber day helps me keep things in perspective.
Wow! You can imagine the conversation starting—right here—among friends in a typical American neighborhood.
Now, it’s your turn! It’s Memorial Day. You’ve got a spare moment. Make your reflection today into a brief Comment to share here.
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