For anyone who has served overseas in wartime or learned of the death of a loved one as a result of such conflict, Memorial Day is forever changed. Our hearts grow heavy, our eyes fill with unshed tears, and old hurts and losses are fresh again. Young voices break and mature warriors retreat into silence. And we all, for a time, embraced the pain, the hurt and the knowledge of such a great loss.
In short, as much as it hurts, we remember it.
For veterans, the day can be very difficult. It’s not a veteran’s thank you day; it is a day to remember those who did not return. It’s about the loss…of the faces of the bereaved…on the battlefield…at the grave…and even sometimes at the front door, to tell a family that their loved one will not be coming home .
In just a few days, Memorial Day will be upon us. Yes, there are the community ceremonies as well as the flags placed at the graves of those who have served in our country’s military, from Arlington to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. But what about your neighborhood, your street, your house? To this end, a simple but important way to remember is to place a flag in front of our house. In doing so, we say to anyone in our neighborhood, “Our home has not forgotten!”
Maybe next to you or just driving down your street on Remembrance Day there will be a mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter, husband or wife, lover or children, who will wonder if anyone remembers or even thinks of their grief on that day. Then, passing in front of your house, your flag in place will say to this friend or this stranger: “We have not forgotten”.
In my own congregation, the Sunday before Memorial Day is the only day I will wear my uniform to church. Like all veterans, I don’t wear it as an act of patriotism but rather as a sign of remembrance.
There we will ask for the name, department and location where a loved one was lost. Then we will pray – as will happen in houses of worship across our country – for comfort, strength, thanksgiving and hope that one day there will come a time when we no longer study war. for all time.
Frank Riley is the senior pastor of Grace Hill Church in Morgan Hill. Commander of the US Navy Chaplain Corps and the US Fleet Forces Reserve Chaplain, he completed combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pastor Riley is a member of the South County Interfaith Clergy Alliance and can be reached at [email protected].