Monday was Memorial Day, officially a solemn time of remembrance and unofficially a national barbeque day. But memories inform every day, and so too does the importance of remembrance.
Although we've passed the official day of memorial, I'd like to share some thoughts to carry forward on warm summer evenings as we sit comfortably beside the grill, lest we all too easily forget those we've lost.
Life is full of paradox, and we are at our best when we hold seemingly-opposite experiences in our embrace. This means we can welcome the summer season by hanging out near the sizzling grill and recall those who are with us only in memory.
Most importantly, as we watch the sparks rise from fire we can remember the fallen, for they too were transformed into something ethereal and bright.
We've been a nation at war for more than a decade, and we have a new generation of veterans facing a new range of consequences post-deployment. Whether or not we agree with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have an profound obligation to honor and support those who went there and many of the other conflict zones.
It seems that there are two distinct communities in the United States today. There are those whose lives are touched, directly, by service to the nation and those who benefit, indirectly, from such service. Although there are veterans in my family and veterans in my circle of friends, it wasn't until recently that I made the choice to participate in the community of support instead of passively accepting the gift of other's action. This my loss, personally, and my failure as a citizen.
Today, I grieve for the searing loss of the fallen and the burning ignorance of those who fail to recognize the value of service and sacrifice. I feel sick at heart when I hear people diminish members of the military as somehow tainted by their service, for shame, such disrespectful attitudes and actions are badly done indeed.
By all means, we must strive for peace and for a time in which the violence ceases. But we can and must do so respectfully, because in today's world, a volunteer army protects the freedom that enables civilians to foresee a day without war. And the ultimate price of our freedom is the loss of a soldier's life.
On Memorial Day, we honor the fallen, placing flowers at graves and memorials and lowering flags to half mast. But the best remembrance we can offer to those who died in service is to stand resolutely beside the living members of the armed forces, veterans and their families.
Standing with them means acknowledging their service and sacrifice.
Of course, there's a unique bond between those with combat experience and those who've never been there, and those who dread the appearance of somber uniformed officers at the door on a glorious sunny day. The rest of us can only try to imagine. Even if we have no direct connection to anyone who went to the front lines, we too can witness the impact of war and be mindful of the intense and heartbreaking toll it takes.
Those of us who haven't "gone there" carry the responsibility to "be here" with and for those who have. Our job is to be mindful and compassionate. We can create a space that acknowledges differences in experience along with similarity in humanity. We can be present with the loss of life that is acutely felt by every service member, past and present. We can have compassion for their pain, their families' pain and ours as a nation. We can and we must, because without that service (which is ours, as civilians, to give), we only diminish ourselves.
Monday was a national day of memory. Perhaps you participated in a community-based memorial, or perhaps you honored the day privately in your own heart. And, for those of you who forgot to remember, its never too late to stand by those who have fallen. Most of all, we can remain mindful that every day dawns in memorial for those who have lost someone dear.
There's nothing wrong with kicking back at the barbecue on Memorial Day; after all, burgers and hotdogs brand a wonderful all-American tradition. But remember, it's richer to welcome the season of warmth and plenty with recognition of those who time of celebration was cut short.
For more by Deborah Schoeberlein, click here.
For more on mindful living, click here.