Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States.
It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, with a celebration to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves.
Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major United States holidays, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.
The irony is that is that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that as an intelligent life form, we would recognize the effects of violence and cease perpetuating death and brutality.
How many orphans does it take to stop the violence?
How many PTSD cases does it take to stop war?
When will we give up the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?
My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops.
A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point versus how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the U.S. Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of attending school there makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers may have been transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming.
While I am passionate about ending war and violence, I recognize the fact that there are millions of veterans who need our help.
There are many charities that help veterans and their families.
We can give generously of our time and resources to help those who have given their bodies and souls in defense of our nation.
Here are a few that serve our military injured and fallen.
Wounded Service Personnel
Adaptive Sports Center
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Hire Heroes USA
Spirit of America
Freedom Service Dogs of America
Hope for the Warriors
Wounded Warriors Family Support
Hope for the Warriors
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America
Navy/Marine Corp Relief Society
Puppies Behind Bars
Homes For Our Troops
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
Fisher House Foundation
All of these charities need our support. There are other service organizations which support veterans, such as Food Kitchens, Homeless Shelters and the V.A. hospitals. Please give generously with your time and money.
One important way to help end the violence and bring peace to the world is to start with ourselves.
We need to make peace with our past—forgive others, accept responsibility for our mistakes as learning lessons and let go of regret and resentment. When we find peace with our past we can bring that peace into our lives and it will act like a pebble in a calm lake spreading like a ripple effect into the world.
If you know a veteran, thank them for their service. If you know a veteran who needs help, invite them to your family picnic or take them out to show your appreciation.
Let peace begin with you.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: flickr/Beverly & Pac