Memorial Day greetings, memories, and prayers


As someone who retired after 29 years on active duty that included Vietnam and Beirut (during the Beirut barracks bombing) among many other hot spots, I was happy that many members of this listserv took the time to share thoughts about Memorial Day, the best words to use that way and ways to honor and remember those who died and those who survived. Personally, I accept with gratitude any greetings that are offered with good intentions, but do appreciate those who struggle a bit to find some words especially appropriate for Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember in a very specific way those who died while serving in our military. (As many of you know, it replaced "Decoration Day," when friends and relatives would decorate gravers with flags and flowers -- but after newer wars, graves were dug around the world, and many had not marked graves at all.) I have a close group of retired friends, and we have chosen to say "we remember" on Memorial Day, with the same words used in reply.

On the subject of remembering, I had the great honor of delivering the invocation at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial yesterday, and some of you might be interested to learn that while "thank you for your service" is always greatly appreciated by veterans or those still serving, the special greeting of "Welcome Home" is the perfect thing to say if you know you're addressing a veteran of Vietnam. We were never welcomed home when we returned, and in fact know that many were not welcomed home until we built the Wall. Those words were exchanged many times yesterday.

It is probably not appropriate for me to post my prayer here (although I'll proudly share it with anyone who contacts me off-line and requests it), but I hope it is all right to share a brief excerpt in the spirit of our discussion so far:

Dream with me that those we honor on this day will never be forgotten, but we will build a future when we need not dig new military graves, and no new names need be inscribed on memorials of war; a time we beat our swords to plowshares and war will be no more.

After Vietnam, we built this Wall to heal a nation torn apart by grief and war. Heal us again, I pray. Give us courage, strength and wisdom to keep today’s divisions from tearing us apart.

Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff


For a rich and fascinating discussion of the origins of Memorial Day in American culture I recommend  “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” by (future Harvard Univ. president) Drew Gilpin Faust (Vintage 2009).
Porter Street
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