Last year I pointed out that Memorial Day was slipping in our collective consciousness from a day of solemn remembrance of those who died in the service of our country to just another “vacation Monday” or the marker of the start of the Summer season.
A recent experience reinforced for me just how important it is for us to make sure we never lose the deeper meaning of the day.
My wife and I traveled to Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago to witness the “arsenal of democracy” flyover. The event included over 50 WWII warplanes, and coincided with the 70th anniversary of “V-E (Victory in Europe) Day” – the defeat of Germany by Allied Forces. As an airplane buff, I found the flyover stirring. It was an historic opportunity to see the “warbirds” aloft, flying in formation, instead of on the pages of history books or on static display in a museum.
Later that afternoon, we walked along the National Mall, and visited the WWII Memorial, which sits near the Washington Monument, at the foot of the long reflecting pool facing the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial is ringed with names of famous battles of the war, and engraved with quotes from leaders of the time. There is also this wall, with over 4000 bronze stars, each of which represents 100 service members who perished, with the inscription “Here We Mark the Price of Freedom.”
We also witnessed a brief ceremony honoring a small number of WWII veterans who were there for the event. Not surprisingly, they were all old men now, their ranks nearly completely depleted by the passage of time. As I watched them salute the colors, many from their wheelchairs, it occurred to me that we are on the cusp of transition of that war from “memory” to “history.”
As inheritors of that history, and as beneficiaries of the sacrifice made by those represented by the stars on the Memorial’s wall, it is incumbent upon us to honor their memory this Memorial Day.
What do you think?