As I sit and reflect upon Memorial Day, I am struck by its intent to honor the armed forces, and can not help but think about what armed forces means.
Memorial Day started as an honoring of Union Veterans of the Civil War in the United States. This is a group of men and women who fought against their family members, brothers, sisters… all for the sake of the US Constitutional Rights, that every man is created equal. Although there are several arguments on how the South won the war based on objectives (to not be beholden to any Constitution but their own individual one; a concept that still persists today) the South surrendered with the North declaring themselves the victor. Slavery, as a political and governed right, was abolished as a part of the spoils.
I remember meeting a few WWI veterans at a nursing home when I visited as a child to sing Christmas carols. There is some humor now in watching the old films depicting these WWI battles with their cavalries, and the new weapon of a gun.
Some terror in watching the films on shell shock, the original label for PTSD, in which some soldiers endured. However, the fight again was about freedom.
Some historians depict this battle for freedom as originating in the hostility around Darwin’s book Origin of Species, and his premise of survival of the fittest… each country fought 60 years later, and which one of them was the fittest? The troops battled side by side for each other, and their families back home… for the freedom of being who they wish to be. I find great sadness in that two warring sections between the Germans and the British celebrated with each other on the Christmas holiday, only to be punished for it thereafter.
My grandfather and his brother served in WWII, with my grandfather landing shortly after D-day in Normandy as part of the maintenance crew, once tanks and heavier weapons were being shipped ashore. His brother served in the Pacific and perished there before making it home again. My grandfather and his brother both signed up to fight and protect their families, with my grandfather forcibly needing to declare his citizenship in order to do so. Again a fight for freedom, brother next to brother, fighting to exist as you wish.
My Irish roots, my Italian roots, and my Colombian roots were all immigrants to this country starting back in the 1850’s. Each generation since then has simultaneously fought for the right to be free and live their lives in these United States. The promise of hope being constant.
On today’s holiday, and in today’s climate, remember what freedom really means, as you honor your own family, descendants, and ancestors… those that fought, and died, to allow all of us to live, and most of all love, as we please. Do not allow the freedoms that generations of denizens fought and lost their lives for to be compromised… even by a little.
Where are you stuck in your life? What freedoms are you seeking? How do you honor your family and ancestors? What and who are you willing to sacrifice your life for?
Enjoy the holiday!