View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers
In four days we'll be celebrating Memorial Day. A few days ago, whether anyone noticed or not, we celebrated Armed Forces Day. Aside from having a day off, a few extra sales at department stores and the unofficial start of summer, it is hoped we might think of what it's all about.
When I was a child of, oh, maybe six or seven, I was walking with my mother one day downtown. We were going to the Memorial Day Parade and we heard the bells sounding the Angelus at noon and I remember she turned to me and said, "Bow your head and say a prayer for those soldiers who fought and died for us in wars."
I did so, of course, although I was too young to realize precisely what I was praying for. I knew it was a good thing to pray for the dead and the repose of their souls, but the gravity of this time for prayer, at twelve o'clock on a hot, sunny day on a downtown sidewalk (although we didn't make a big deal of it) was a little too deep for me to grasp. I knew, by my mother's demeanor, this was indeed a serious thing; a pious gesture, to say the least, and I was disposed to not fidget for those 60 seconds.
As time went on, I realized it was indeed a thoughtful minute; a brief moment set aside to pay homage and reflect on the gravity of the sacrifices that had been rendered to our country by those who had gone before in war after war. It was understandable that a boy under ten years of age would have trouble relating to remembrances and the like, taken instead, fortunately, to seeing war movies or reading or somehow otherwise hearing about the tragedies of war from those who knew it firsthand, or close to it.
Thanks to my thoughtful parents, I was told, or otherwise exposed to, those things early enough so that I might have some appreciation of them. Later in my own experiences I too saw what it was like to have those about me cruelly taken away from this life and, once again, hearkened back to those moments of prayer.
Memorial Day is difficult to properly commemorate. At one time, it was called Decoration Day, with flags flying and banners and the decorating of the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers. Some keep it as a special, somber day that they might "celebrate" only in their hearts; between just themselves and their God.
No matter how the occasion is commemorated, we can't forget why we are putting the day aside as something special. We are, after all, what our past makes us and it is certainly incumbent upon us to give extra thought this year to those who are in the Armed Forces in the Middle East. They need the comfort of our thoughts now, more than ever. They need to know we know the price they're paying, not just this day, but every day.
When you hear the blowing of "Taps" - or better yet - the Angelus at noon next Monday, you don't have to stop what you're doing; all you have to do is give a special reflective thought.
And perhaps a word of thanks.