Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

That's a strange saying. Happy Memorial Day. Can there be such a thing? Should there be such a thing? For some people, Memorial Day is not a happy day. For millions of people, their Fathers, their Mothers, their brothers sisters, cousins, aunts or uncles are not here with them to celebrate Memorial Day. For some of them, they will never come home again. For me, Memorial Day has always been about having a day off. A long weekend. Sometimes even a vacation, an excuse to get out of town. Having a BBQ. But lately I've been thinking about the true meaning of Memorial Day. Here's a definition of Memorial Day, from the Columbia University Press encyclopedia:

Memorial Day
a holiday in the United States observed in late May. Previously designated Decoration Day, it was inaugurated in 1868 by Gen. John A. Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans and has since become a day on which all war dead are commemorated.

Memorial Day is supposed to be a day on which we remember those who have died at war. O.K., This not relevant to me, because I don't know anyone who has died in a war. So it isn't a sad day for me. But my husband was in the military when we met. I was eighteen and he was twenty. He was due to be deployed to the Persian Gulf in six months. I was terrified. Not only because I couldn't bear to be away from him for more than a few hours at a time(ahh, young love), but because I was afraid that he would never come back. Luckily he was discharged before his deployment and went on to start his college career, which ended in a Master's degree. I used to thank God every day for that. As time passed, I forgot to thank him anymore, and now we've pretty much forgotten that he was even in the military. But I still think and pray about the millions of people who are in the military, fighting for our freedom and being killed every day. Our social worker's husband is in the military. He was past the age of deployment when they ran out of people to send and his number came up. He is serving in one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. She is left at home with a three year old and a new baby. I worry about his safety, yet I don't even know him. I worry about him never coming home and leaving her alone with those two small children to raise. I try to do my part to support our military. When my radio station had drives for military families, I brought things. When our school asked for donations for toiletries the soldiers needed, I went to Target and filled the cart, throwing items in, careless of the cost. I am having my kids write letters and draw pictures to send to the troops. Because I want to do something to let them know they are appreciated. This is a completely separate issue from supporting the war. Because I don't support the war. But I support the people fighting in the war. Because they are just doing their jobs. And it is a job that I hope no one in my family ever has to do again. So what I'm getting at is, why can't Memorial Day be about remembering those that have died in a war, but also about remembering those who are still fighting? I am going to get my kids involved in this organization called A Million Thanks. A Lutheran High School in Orange, CA started a service project to send one million thank you letters to our service men and women. They have surpassed the one million mark, but now they need 300,000 more letters and then they'll have enough to thank every single person serving in the military right now, even the reservists. I've pledged to send in fifty letters from my kids. Will you help me? What a great thing to do on Memorial Day with your kids. What a great way to open up the lines of communication about something I think we spend way too much time not talking or thinking about. It is a small gesture that would mean so much.

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