I have to admit to mixed feelings about Memorial Day.
Later this morning there will be a parade through the Village.
Complete with fire trucks with lights flashing.
A band of some type.
Children on bikes or in wagons decorated with bunting and flags.
Accompanied by parents marching, riding, walking from Seminary Rd. to the Village Green. The boy scouts will also be there and, maybe even a sports team or two. Prizes will be awarded for the best decorated bike or wagon. Followed then by a picnic at the Fire Department.
In between parade and picnic there will be speeches on the Green and a wreath placed in front of the flagpole which bears plaques listing the names of those from our community who have been killed in our nation’s wars from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. The ceremony will end with Taps and a 21 gun salute.
In reading about Memorial Day and thinking about this morning, I was stuck the description of that first Decoration Day as not a happy celebration. How could it be. In 1866, the names on the graves on which flowers or flags were placed were the names of their sons and their fathers and their next door neighbor. The human cost of the war just ended was both deeply personal and far too real. Such a contrast between then and now.
It’s a complicated balance for me between remembering and honoring on one hand and glorification on the other. Remembering those who serve and have served our country in our armed forces. Honoring those whose lives have been lost, and on the other hand sometimes seeming to glorifying war.
The truth is war is hell…for all involved.
Soldiers and civilians and families back home.
And Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and alarming suicide rates and lack of support and care still plague far too many in our veterans. We are learning returning home can also hell.
Tomorrow I will watch the parade.
I will listen to the speeches and allow silence to settle around me while Taps is played. I will offer the Benediction at the end of the ceremony as I have been asked to do.
But it will be difficult to celebrate because my heart will be heavy.
Because war is hell and too many lives have already been lost.
And I will feel a sadness as well.
For all our intelligence and wisdom we are still a long way from that riverside where we will lay down our sword and shield and study war no more.