Letter: Observing Memorial Day

The Shawnee News-Star

Dear editor,

For some Americans, Memorial Day signals the beginning of summer, get togethers to remember a family member who died in service to this great nation, a classmate or friend who made the ultimate sacrifice to maintain freedom and liberties we all enjoy.  For a few, it seems, this is a somber day of thanksgiving to the men and women who helped deliver our way of life but never had the opportunity to step off the battlefield.

For the 2020 and 2021 Memorial Days, the celebration has a different meaning.  Granted this writer has not lived during the 153 years this day has been celebrated, therefore, a synopsis of each year cannot be rendered. However, having lived in more than six decades, he is able to recall at least four of them with significance.  A relative few, I surmise, cannot understand why this day is celebrated for those who, they believe, invade other lands to protect and defend this nation’s privileges to destroy other nations’ right to do what they wish freely. This observation was recently presented this writer in vis-à-vis contact.

Without anger or pity, the investigator was given the following response. Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reconnect with their history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals we cherish. As of 2021 more than a million American service members have died in wars and conflicts this nation fought since the first colonial service members took up arms to fight for independence. Each person who died during those conflicts were a loved one cherished by family and friends. Each was a loss to their communities and the nation. And one of the first persons to fall, reportedly, was a man named Crispus Attucks—of Africanoid and Americanoid (Native American) ancestral descent.

The observance of this day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863. As the American Civil War raged, grieving mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and other loved ones were cleaning confederate soldiers’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, placing flowers on them. They noticed nearby union soldiers’ graves, dirty, and overgrown with weeds. These women understood these dead soldiers had loved ones and friends though far away. They cleared their graves of mud, straightened their headstones and laid flowers on them as lovingly, it is reported, as if these were their own.

Stephen Peterson

United States Army (Retired)

Shawnee