The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 22 May 2013. It is archived here for those who wish to read it.
Every so often, especially as Memorial Day approaches, my mind and heart reflects again on the unimaginable sacrifices given by so many military men and women over the years.
The historical facts are pretty easy to write.
Originally called Decoration Day, the Memorial Day holiday was first proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan in his General Order Number 11. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, just a couple of years after the ghastly American Civil War had ended. Flowers were placed on tens of thousands of nearly-fresh graves of soldiers who had died for both the Union and Confederate armies. Until after World War I, the South honored their dead on separate days. Today it is celebrated almost universally in the United States on the last Monday in May.
General Logan's order stated, in part: "...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime....let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan." --General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868
The emotional aspect of this day is much harder for me to write.
Oh, I have set out American flags at my house and made plans to attend Memorial Day ceremonies, and even am supposed to speak at one.
I make all the effort I can to show the pride and respect I have for our military men and women.
We at the Bullitt County History Museum have been working for several years on an "In Memoriam" list of Bullitt County people who have died while in the service. We do this in preparation for a day when this list can be part of a really proper memorial monument in our county.
But that is all just small stuff in the relativity of things.
All those individual, real, sacrifices of very real people are what causes me to pause.
I think about how so dreadfully many good, young people have sacrificed so much, even their lives, over the years, over the centuries of war.
But as I sit here today writing this column, I also find myself thinking of the living who have sacrificed their lives. That is, God bless them, our many veterans who, by their service, experienced such awful things that they could not have prepared for, that it dramatically affected and changed the rest of their lives, so very often to their life-long loss. They might not have died in military service, but in a way many of them gave even more. "Pro Military" or not, we should all remember that these American Brothers and Sisters went through a lot more than the rest of us can imagine.
In a Christian Sunday School that I teach, I sometimes discuss how, in one way of looking at things, Jesus "giving His life for us" does not mean just that he died for us. Much more than that, He gave his "Life," His lifetime, His "Living," affected by His calling. A lifetime of sacrifice and harshness and sorrow and often painful experience that could have otherwise been spent in ease.
That is how I often think of our Veterans. They not only were willing to give their lives, they have given their Living.
I know this coming Memorial Day holiday is meant to remember those who "gave all."
And I do. Nothing should diminish that remembrance.
The "In Memoriam" list shown here lists every beloved one that we know of.
But I also want to remember those who continue to give all, and will give for the rest of their lives. Both our military men and women now serving, and especially those who have served in the past...and will never quite finish serving until the end of their days.
God bless them everyone.
For some, Memorial Day is a long weekend, a start to summer vacation, a cook out with friends and family, a big weekend at the lake, and possibly a dreaded hang-over the next day.
But I think most everyone understands, deep down, that there is more than that.
A friend, Brandon Congleton, said it better than I when he wrote, "To me Memorial Day is a day we should all be grateful for. It's a day to recognize and remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Those soldiers are heroes. They lived and died serving their country. No words that I can say here will ever be able to honor them properly."
No words, indeed.
Only sincere remembrance.
Copyright 2013 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.