"Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs the duty ours."
May has arrived yet again, and with it the opportunity for celebration. The days are longer and the temperatures are on the rise. Evidence of natures beauty can be found everywhere. We honor our mother's for their sacrifice, guidance and devotion. Parents and students attend commencement exercises on college campuses signaling endings and new beginnings. High School students escort their "sweet hearts" to their junior and senior proms. Some young elementary school children of the Catholic faith make their First Communion, while others count down the days until the arrival of their summer vacation. Indeed there are many reasons for one to rejoice and find merriment throughout the month of May.
While May is a month to rejoice it is equally important to realize that it is a time to remember. A time to remember and appreciate the fallen heroes of our armed forces. A time to remember the living members of the "greatest generation". A time to remember the retired veterans or those currently on active duty. Essentially it has become a month when we rembember everyone whose sacrifice and commitment to our military has led to the strengthening of our freedom and liberty.
May, while a month that brings great joy is also a month that can bring melancholy or even sorrow as we observe Memorial Day. While originally intended to honor Civil War veterans (Decoration Day) who lost their lives on the battle field it eventually evolved into a day (Memorial Day) to honor our fallen heroes from all wars. While that still holds true today, the day of observance also allows the opportunity to show appreciation for the patriotism of the survivors and for those currently actively involved in so many peace keeping missions around the world.
Honoring those who have committed part or most of lives to military service is something of which I hold great personal regard. Many members of my own family have valiantly served the United States of America, as members of her armed forces. My grandfather earned a "purple heart" for his valor at Normandy during World War II. My uncle served during the Korean War. My cousin retired as a high ranking officer within the United States Air Force and my cousin's husband is a graduate of the West Point Military Academy. Furthermore, my mother's nephew and brother both served in the United States Navy. There are many branches on my family tree where there is evidence of strong patriotism and service to our country.
As a middle school social studies educator of 19 years, I have always believed it is my responsibility to share with my students the reasons for the observance of Memorial Day and the importance of those people that we remember on Memorial Day. Our classroom has been the perfect forum in which to have discussions to honor the men and women of our military who have made such an important difference in shaping our nation's history. We have taken the time over the years to talk about members of our families and the roles that they have played and continue to play in our armed forces. We have talked about the importance of military service, both from a historical and a modern day perspective. We have sought to understand the impact of their efforts upon our citizenship and we have explored how vastly different our nation would be if not for their committed service.
I always leave that day with mixed emotions. I feel grateful for those who have sacrificed but sad for all that they have had to sacrifice.There is a tragic irony in considering the violence that those in our military must endure on the battlefield or elsewhere, so that we may live in peace.
As May winds to a close its conclusion brings with it yet again the arrival of Memorial Day. While solemn in nature there are reasons to celebrate. While we honor the sacrifices of those men and women of our armed forces,we also take time to celebrate the peace that their service has provided.. The day brings with it the opportunity to renew many family traditions that have endured the test of time and spanned many generations. One special tradition in our house is the Memorial Day parade sponsored by our local volunteer fire company. This parade that passes right by our house dates back to my childhood and is one that my wife, myself and my children have marched in on occasion over the years. Today we continue to commemorate the occasion with a breakfast celebration that includes family and friends. We enjoy the company of others as well as the festive atmosphere that the parade always brings. The afternoon features more opportunities to enjoy the company of our family and friends as we host our annual picnic.
While I always enjoy the time I spend in the company of my family and friends I can't help but take the time yet again to consider the importance of the sacrifice of those who have served. The glory of this day belongs to them. The peaceful life that we enjoy today is largely a direct result of their sacrifices. The duty moving forward belongs to us, to protect and preserve the peace that they have earned, for us to enjoy.