Like most of our national holidays here in the U.S., Memorial Day has been largely given over to retail sales hoopla, outdoor concerts, family picnics and the like. It can be difficult to remember the original meaning of the day, which is to commemorate the sacrifice of the men and women of our military who have given their lives in defense of their country.
The holiday began with “Decoration Day” after the Civil War, a way to honor Union soldiers who had died in that gruesome conflict. Much later, ceremonies to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate dead were merged and expanded to include the dead of all our country’s wars.
This year as we remember those in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I would ask that we also pause for a minute to think of those innocent civilians who have been caught in the widening jaws of war. From the gassed and broken children of Syria to the bombed and bloody young people of Manchester, too many blameless innocents have become victims of a war without boundaries or rules. Let us remember them, too.
And, better yet, let us find a way to stop the conflicts that make them part of this kind of tragic remembrance.