The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”

Memorial Day is a day for thanks and a day for reflection. I hope you remember those to whom we owe so much. This is my annual tribute. 

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.” While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860′s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword.

Joyce Kilmer

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2 Comments on “The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.””

  1. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    You and I reached our audulthood during the tragedy of the Vietnam war. Over 50,000 young men and woman lost their lives in that polically charged losing quagmire conflict. Many of those men were drafted while some young men fled the country. Others served for numerous personal reasons including resignation to the inevitability of the draft. Fortunately, my draft board was meeting their quotas until I gave up my student deferment to go into the first draft lottery. Luckily, my birthday was drawn number 346, which basically took me out of harms way. As I’ve said before, being lucky is better than being smart.

    Looking back over the past 53 years I have come to realize that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice did so out of a sense of duty regardless of their political beliefs about the war. Today we have an all volunteer military and it appears that we are going to finally end our involvement in the even longer wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s all take a moment between the ball games, shopping and cookouts to honor those who served either voluntarily or involuntarily and gave their lives out of a sense of duty to our country. The policies and the politicians who kept the Vietnam war going for over ten long years are all gone. However, we should never forget those of our generation who never returned from the jungles of Southeast Asia and those who never returned from the deserts of the Middle East.

    Happy Memorial Day.

    It hasn’t stopped raining steadily since early this morning.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      My friend lost her brother in Vietnam. It seems that most of our lives we have been in one war or the other starting with Korea.

      I remember sitting at a local watering hole with a lot of my college friends to watch the draft on TV. With each number the guys exhaled. Theirs had not been picked. Most still had student deferments which were finite, but I also remember a couple of guys whose numbers were early. They moaned, and we all looked knowing.

      My brother was drafted but went to Germany. My mother thanked God.

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