May 26 – Thinking about Memorial Day, although I still choose to think of it as Decoration Day, the one I knew and appreciated before the name was changed to Memorial Day. First observed on May 30 after the Civil War, it was intended to honor those who had died in that terrible War between the States. After World War I, which ended in 1919, we remembered those veterans who had lost their lives during “that war to end all wars.”
Eventually, in honor of all of those who had been killed during the years when our country was involved in any war, the name Memorial Day began to be used. President Johnson in the 1960’s signed the bill that made the name official. I am still not keen on the change and find myself referring to Decoration Day even today. Another change I am not satisfied with is that this wonderful day of remembering and honoring our soldiers, is celebrated on the Monday nearest May 30 so that folks can have a long weekend of celebration, many not even remembering why.
Now the same change dealt with Veterans Day on November 11. When I grew up, that special day was called Armistice Day, in honor of those who had died in the war before the fighting stopped, and the armistice was signed. Today we remember the lives of our soldiers, both living and dead on Veterans Day. At least that date hasn’t changed!
How could I ever forget the various wars in which our country was involved! Yes, I majored in history in college and always wanted to learn more about our government and our people. How proud I am to be an American. Even though there are many “shady deals” among the people and in the government, still this is “MY country, land of the free.” I will never forget the day I passed by the Statue of Liberty on my way to Africa and back, with tears of pride and joy in my eyes.
On this special day, I think especially of my five brothers, all of whom were in various branches of the service. Roy and Ed in the Navy, Frank in the Air Force, and Rich and Pete in the Army. How the rest of the family prayed for their protection and were wonderfully blessed as each one returned without injury. Only Rich (91) and Pete (83) are alive today, but rarely tell of their proud service.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor took place on December 7, 1944, Ed was serving in the Navy in the Iceland area. Very soon the ship and others sailed for the Pacific where he served for about two years. Later, oldest brother Roy felt a bit left out, so he also joined up. Frank was in California, and Rich finally ended up serving in a hospital in England, where he met his future wife, Nat. My youngest brother Pete spent most of his service in Texas.
Those of us left at home thought of these sons and brothers of ours every day and prayed for their safety. I also remember many of my friends from Academy High School who enlisted before graduation day on June 15, 1944. I just pulled up my commencement program and found that most of the program dealt with war and peace and service with many of our American patriotic songs interspersed.
The graduation theme was “Youth and Today’s World,” broken down into “Youth and the Battle, Something to Fight For,” “Youth and Tolerance, Fraternity among People,” and “Youth and Peace, a New World Rising.” Fortunately today’s graduates do not have to find words like these in their program.
At the close of the ceremony, our class and the audience joined together in singing God the Omnipotent. (As I read the words over again, I was surprised to see that I can still remember the tune!)
God the All-merciful! earth hath forsaken
Thy ways of blessedness, slighted Thy word;
Bid not Thy wrath in its terrors awaken.
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord!
So shall thy children with thankful devotion
Praise Him who saved them from peril and sword,
Singing in chorus from ocean to ocean,
“Peace to the nations, and praise to the Lord.”
So this week as I remember with thanks those who served in the wars in which our country has been engaged, and as I remember my five brothers and so many school friends who went off to the service, I praise the Lord for those who returned and ask Him to comfort the families of those who didn’t. May “God Bless America,” as Kate Smith sang from the heart so many years ago. – CHRIS