My husband and I traveled to the Normandy beaches in February 2018. It was a moving experience. Today, it is with special reverence for those who died on those wind-swept beaches of France that I will celebrate Memorial Day.
Because I come from a military family, this day in my childhood was always marked by ceremony and parades, a solemn recognition that some who wore the uniform died in service. The food and family aspect of Memorial day was less important than the solemnity of remembrance.
Somehow this Memorial Day seems especially poignant: It is the 150th annual observance of what was originally termed “a day of memorial” following the Civil War. Decoration Day continued to be observed by families and communities across the nation, often on May 30, and often simply by decorating the graves of the fallen.This year also marks 100 years since the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” The custom of red poppies stems from the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915.
In just a matter of days, the world marks the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings that led to a cessation of hostilities in Europe, and finally to the end of World War II. Sadly, there have been many battles since.
A Time for Hope
But there is hope as well, perhaps the best hope in nearly 65 years for a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. American troops continue to serve in foreign lands, fight battles in far away places, and die in service to their country. Perhaps there is hope that those conflicts also will be ended before long.
It was only in 1971 that the observance of Memorial Day was officially fixed as the last Monday in May. It is a national holiday, a long weekend, and the unofficial start of summer. But, like most holidays, it has a serious side. By all means, observe the holiday with friends and family. Be safe, enjoy the good things of life. But, take a moment — at least a moment — to acknowledge the sacrifice of the 645,000 men and women who have put on a uniform and given their lives in conflicts around the world since the outbreak of World War I.
At the same time, think back to our own conflict, and acknowledge those who — on both sides — paid homage to those who died. It makes Memorial Day even more meaningful.