In 1867, a hymn by Nella L.Sweet, Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping, was published with a dedication to southern ladies who, as a result of the Civil War, were actively paying homage to their fallen soldiers by decorating and honoring their grave sites. By May 30, 1868, the entire United States followed suit by laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Although there is much dispute as to the origins of Memorial Day, it is not difficult to imagine that women are the ones who inspired the tradition. After all, for the most part, it was women who were left to bury the dead. Grief stricken and with tears flowing, they had to find a way to connect with the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy. Maybe honoring them was a way to deal with not only the grief, but also the guilt we feel for surviving.
Throughout American history women have helped and endured during times of war; even going so far as to join their husbands in war zones to cook their meals and mend their wounds. Later, women kept the war effort strong by working in defense plants or joining in as nurses. As we gained equal rights, thousands became soldiers themselves.
Women possess an emotional strength that may not display itself until called upon to take action. When that strength is riled, nothing can stand in our way. Sometimes I wonder what the women who inspired that hymn by Nella Sweet would think of the way we have evolved and stepped up to causes that help our veterans. Women like Carol Blake, who along with her son Brandon, started Our Forgotten Warriors, a foundation to help veterans recover from the fallout of war and injuries. Then there is Lisa Groves, herself a veteran, who makes certain that countless homeless veterans get a meal every single day through her group, The Veteran's Connection.
I also wonder what those southern belles weeping at the graves of lost loved ones would think of Kimberly Stahlman and Tracy Shue, widows of Colonel Mike Stahlman and Colonel Philip Shue. These two women have been willing to stand up against odds that can only be likened to staring into the mouth of hell; all in honor of their husband's memory. Mary Tillman has done the same thing for her beloved Pat.
We can all learn a lot from the military wives, mothers and daughters of America and follow their example every day of the year.
Kneel where our loves are sleeping,
Dear ones loved in days gone by,
here we bow in holy reverence,
Our bosoms heave the heart-felt sigh.
They fell like brave men, true as steel,
And pour'd their blood like rain-
We feel we owe them all we have,
And can but kneel and weep again.