A day to remember
Although the long Memorial Day weekend is regarded by many as the opening chord in the Vineyard's summer music, a moment's reflection should convince even the most lighthearted Islander that Memorial Day is not the beginning of anything, nor is it just another holiday weekend. It is a brief, sober pause in this nation's lengthening journey.
Of the Revolutionary War, actually of war itself, Abraham Lincoln wrote: "It breathed forth famine, swam in blood, and rode on fire; and long, long after, the orphan's cry and the widow's wail continued to break the sad silence that ensued."
Lincoln's words are, of course, most often associated with the Civil War. Indeed, it was the Civil War's dead, North and South, who were the first to be remembered on Memorial Day. Honoring the graves of the war dead began before the close of the Civil War. In the South, the town of Columbus, Miss., held observances for fallen Union and Confederate soldiers in 1866. Waterloo, N.Y., is the birthplace of Memorial Day in the North.
Officially, in 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a general order designating May 30 of that year "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion."
But, we ask, what good - indeed, what sense - can be made of the horror that is war?
As we pause to remember how difficult and how costly the journey has been and to memorialize those who paid so dearly for the free lives we Americans live, and because they have not paid with their lives for nothing, we reflect on what their sacrifices have bequeathed to us. With speeches, flags, salutes, and parades, we'll join the nation Monday in renewing our national determination to forget no one who has fought and died for us and to remember why. We'll remember, but we must also consider "the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced", as Lincoln reminded his listeners at Gettysburg.