And in honor of those who were left behind…
Memorial Day is a solemn tribute to all United States soldiers who died in war.
It’s a national holiday that also holds a noble truth — life and liberty comes with a cost, willingly paid for by others.
We owe these service men and women a debt of gratitude. It’s the least we can do for someone who has forfeited their own life, to defend ours.
But history is a fascinating thing; it can morph with time.
What began as a tradition shortly after the U.S. Civil war became law, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, thereby establishing three-day weekends for Federal employees and Memorial Day as a national holiday.
Each year, during the last weekend of May, barbecue smoke rises from millions of American grills as backyards and campgrounds swell with celebration, and parade fanfare fills the streets.
Most notably, designated military personnel will place small American flags at the graveside of each and every soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery, politicians will make speeches, and motorcyclists will travel by the thousands to participate in Rolling Thunder, an annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C. in remembrance and respect for all those who defend our country.
All this is wonderful to be sure, but it makes me wonder. How many of us truly feel the sentiment of what Memorial Day represents?
For those of us who have not been personally touched by war, it is easy to be lulled into a peacetime slumber, to become drowsy with the luxury of full bellies, feasting on prosperity afforded to us through the sacrifices – paid in blood – by generations past. It’s the same mentality that creates a commonly held, unconscious illusion — bad things only happen to other people. It can’t happen to me…
I am not writing today to scold, but to awaken.
War is a necessary evil – for there will always be disparate world views leading us into conflict. And this conflict is met by those who bear a dual responsibility. They must not only fight to win our nation’s cause, but to also protect those of us at home. These brave men and women deserve our gratitude, prayers, and remembrance. We must do them justice by feeling the weight of their sacrifice, honor, and duty.
Here’s something to ponder.
What if it had been your beloved that died in battle? Your husband. Your wife. Your son or daughter.
Think about the scores of widows and orphans, families and friends left behind to mourn alone, for nothing can ease that kind of pain except time. Loss is a personal hell that carves its place deep within one’s soul and can take years, if ever, to truly recover.
I speak from experience.
So on this Memorial’s Day remembrance, I would like to dedicate this poem to the families who bravely supported their loved one’s decision to serve, and then paid the ultimate price. Thank you.
The Weeping Willow
It stands alone, this weeping willow,
within a curtain of leaves,
drooping with despondency.
Does the willow weep?
I truly think it does.
I’ve heard the shivering,
the rustling, the quivering,
as when a willow weeps.
Why does the willow weep?
A mystery unsolved.
For all is hidden in her heart,
the sorrow she’s endured,
forever poignant, yet obscure,
is the pain of the willow tree.
If you can imagine the sight of this tree,
then at most you know the bark of her.
This weeping widow, who gazes down at me,
far above, in a third story window.
Tears wetting her eyes, that face the breeze,
her hair flying loose like a willow’s leaves.
~ by Kyla Wong