Young Thoughts from the Corner of Hillside and Crescent
This weekend is one of those “hallowed ground” times for me. Memorial Day has certain traditions, certain memories that go along with it. The flag goes up that day. On Sunday evening I’ll be watching the annual PBS Memorial Day Concert from the Mall and yes, a tear or two will be shed. There have been times when we have walked the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in the days just before the busy weekend. The walk is quite a hike. Its route is determined by where friends and comrades have been laid to rest over the years. Eventually the path leads to the back area near Ft. Myer where the graves of World War I veterans are found. We always pay tribute to my husband’s great uncle who died just before the end of that war.
Other times we drive up to Antietam and walk around the cemetery there. It’s much less frequented, but equally moving. I think of my great-great uncle. Before the neatly ordered Antietam Cemetery came into being, the dead of that horrific battle were buried in mass graves in the days and months following the battles. My great-great uncle began his Civil War Service in the Pennsylvania Volunteers in a unit assigned that duty.
There is no doubt that Memorial Day has special significance to me. I was also a career Army Wife. There is a part of me that is all too aware of the cost of war to families. There is a part of me that knows something about duty and service to our country. It is an important part of me.
This year brings another layer to this weekend. Those fighting a war that was not their choice in Ukraine are fighting for their homeland, their family, freedom. They are fighting for the choice to live in a democracy and not under the governance of another country. Some of the Ukrainian soldiers are part of their military force and have sworn an oath to protect their country. Others are ordinary citizens who understand the stakes of this conflict and have suddenly become seasoned soldiers. There are wives, sisters, grandparents, children, and friends who are now refugees and living with the fear of not knowing about their loved ones.
War has its consequences. It should never be the deliberate choice to resolve differences. That said, wars do happen. And when they do, there are those who are willing to risk the “last full measure” to ensure that those they love and the nation they love are safe. Take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to offer of a prayer for those who died in conflicts and for their families, even to generations beyond, who honor the one who never came back.