Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Memorial Day, Not the Third Day of Your Weekend of Chores

Memorial Day.

The unofficial start of summer.

The reason we get a three-day weekend.

An excuse to barbecue, get together with friends and family, get caught up on all those little projects.


Memorial Day.

A day to remember our fallen soldiers, and to honor their sacrifice.

My family has been lucky. Every generation has served in the military, and our losses in battle have been few. I have recently been researching my family history, and have learned that my family connection to this country goes back to the French and Indian War, when a young man named Alexander Waddell traveled from Scotland as a kind of "soldier of fortune" for the British. This man was my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather.

He stayed, and subsequently served in both the first and last battles of the Revolutionary War. While at Yorktown, he stumbled across his younger brother, Matthew, who was serving on the British side. Alexander had last seen Matthew in Scotland,when he left his entire life behind. Expecting to never see his family again, Alexander rejoiced in finding his brother. Imagine, on a battlefield of thousands, finding a familiar and familial face. What a miracle that they both survived and reconnected.

Knowing that my roots go that far back, knowing that my grandfather so many generations back came here and embraced the idea of America, that he was willing to fight and give his life for a fledgling country that was willing to adopt him as one of their own, makes me so much prouder to be who I am and where I'm from.

So today, as you're going about your holiday...remember why the holiday exists. For every soldier that fought and lived, so many others fought and died. And that is why we have today off.

To remember our fallen.

To give thanks that they offered themselves to further the cause.

To ensure that their sacrifices, no matter how long ago, are never forgotten.

This is one of my favorite poems. Its imagery is haunting and timeless.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

A woman named Moina Michael added her own verse to the poem, which I think speaks even more to this day.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies