Is a time to honor the fallen service men and women who have died in defense of the United States.
I was going to write a list of do’s and don’ts for this Memorial Day for pastors and other ministers. Like, “do not thank a veteran for their service on this day”, or do not say, “happy Memorial Day to people.” At this point it would just be redundant and others have written in great lengths about the do’s and don’ts and if you choose to ignore them that is really your own ignorance and folly, just be warned you could hurt people.
Instead, I decided to write a small reflection on this day.
I had the distinct honor of serving on many funeral details as well as being assigned as a casualty assistance officer for people who have lost loved ones. While many of my funerals and details consisted of older retired gentlemen being buried, I had the privilege of serving on a killed in action service member.
We performed the usual ceremony and myself and one of the soldiers assigned to the task with me approached the flag draped coffin. We stood there offered our salutes to the flag and grasped the flag and proceeded to fold it. The flag is then folded into a triangle and the other member held the flag as I ensured its tightness and shape. I then stepped back and saluted the flag again.
The flag was handed to me and I grasped it with both hands and brought it to my chest. I turned to the family and marched to the young widow and mother who was to receive the flag. I took a knee and looked her in the eye. Those eyes full of sorrow and pain looked back at me. I know she had been crying for days, out of the corner of my eyes I see her two kids one boy and one girl both dressed in their Sunday best. Both of them in seeming more shock than I dare to feel.
I then say my memorized statement: “On behalf of the President of the United States, [the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy or the United States Air Force] and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
I then hand the flag to her stand up salute and then proceed to my soldiers lined up with their firearms.
I share this not because it is about me, but when I think about Memorial Day I think about those brown, tear stained red eyes. I think about those two children who have lost their father, their mother. I think about the parents who will no longer enjoy the presence of their son or daughter.
Here is an example of a military funeral.
Another country and an earlier time I stood at the ramp of a chinook helicopter. It was hot maybe 130 degrees or so. I wasn’t thinking about the heat. I was watching the bodies of my friends be loaded into the back of this helicopter to be taken to the United States to be buried by their families. Their military brothers however had to say goodbye. Here is an example of a ramp ceremony.
When you “celebrate” Memorial Day remember it is not a celebration for many. I ask you this weekend, I beg you this weekend, do not make it harder for the families and veterans who have lost friends and family to have to “overlook” your ignorance.
I wonder if you lost a close family member would you want to stand up in the middle of a church and be acknowledged for you loss every year?