Honor The War Dead
What exactly does this mean, to honor the dead? How do I do that–exactly?
It’s a mysterious act, this honoring the dead. Do you:
- Right hand over the heart
- Intone these words: [solemn blah, solemn blah, solemn blah]
- Look silently into the sky for 31 seconds
Have you seen an FAQ about how to honor the dead, or a nifty blog in the HowTo sphere? A YouTube step-by-step video?
I don’t think so (but if you have one, put it in the comments section here!).
Memorial Day is to remember and honor the war dead–a day of great opportunity. In addition to the main purpose of Memorial Day (see below), it’s a day that gives us a chance to cultivate our own personal sense of what “honoring the dead” means to each of us.
So, please take a minute here and use the comments section below to write down your description of HOW you honor the war dead.
I’ll start by adding my own, but first…
Memorial Day Overview
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.
Here’s a snippet from the official, first Memorial Day Order by General John A. Logan, 1868.
Memorial Day has the purpose:
“of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines… What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe?”
— General John A. Logan, General Order No. 11, Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
For those of you who regularly attend Memorial Day ceremonies, I’m sure you’ve heard many speeches, both stirring and dull, about the history of Memorial Day. There is usually a formal ceremony of placing flowers to commemorate fallen soldiers–comrades, family members, neighbors, strangers. Those rituals are public and can be cathartic, and they symbolize the purpose of Memorial Day.
I’d like to invite you to translate that into a personal tradition and to share some words about that here.
How do you personally honor the war dead?