'Spring Bank Holiday' holds absolutely no meaning to me, or to anybody else in this country, except for the banks and post office that close, and all of the shops that take advantage of people likely to have the day off of work to shop in their sales. Originally, it was a Christian holiday, Whitsun, which was the Monday after Pentacost. This lasted as a public holiday until the Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971.
Memorial Day, on the other hand, is something that has true meaning to me. Similar to Remembrance Sunday here in the UK in November, this is a day set aside to honour our heroes...the men and women who died protecting our freedom. It originated after the US civil war as Decoration Day, as a day set aside to honour the fallen of that bloody time and decorate their graves.
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. ~ General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (www.history.com/topics/memorial-day-history)
For me, personally, it's not just the freedom of the US or UK. It's also the freedom all people who live in countries that allow you to speak as you will, believe as you want, and experience true free will. OK, there are limits...overall national law...but there are places in this world that give me the creeps over the fact that I would probably be on the path to execution by stoning because I am a Pagan, and the fact that I am a woman with an opinion and sense of self worth. Even if we don't agree with the reasons behind the current wars and conflicts, we still need to stand behind the brave souls and their families who go off on the orders of their superiors on a road of unknown end.
I think to the Vikings and other Norse and Germanic paths, and their view of honour and glory.
Dedication, The Halls of Valhalla
"And, Lo, do I see my father
And, Lo, do I see my mother
And my sisters and my brothers
And the line of my people
Back to the beginning...
And, Lo, do they call me,
In the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave may live forever!"
Many brave warriors
chanted such a prayer
before battles that raged
In times untold.
Their stories are gone
lost in histories depths,
to never be heard again
except as tales from the old.
But try as you may
to find such valor now,
it just doesn't exist
in the world today.
Heroes are myth,
brought from out of a book.
When someone fights against evil
they get nary a second look.
So just remember a time,
lost in the mist.
And remember to treat
All brave men today,
as the heroes they are.
Their ideal death was to die in glorious battle. A true warrior didn't want to die in his bed as an old man. He wanted stories to be told around the fires, for his legacy to be remembered. That is the least we can do for our present day heroes, whether they are still serving us now, have moved on to retirement as veterans, or have found their way to Valhalla. We can remember and honour the stories of them all, as it's the least that we can do.
This post is in honour of all military men and women, past and present, especially those in my life:
- My brother, John, US Army, Iraq Veteran
- My cousin's husband, Jody, US Navy Reserves, Iraq Veteran
- My cousin's husband, Ben, US Army Reserves
- My cousin, Jeff, US Navy, retired
- My daughter's grandfather, Bill, RAF, retired, Falklands veteran
- My friend, Les, British Army and RAF, Afghanistan Veteran
- My stepdad, Mike, USAF
- My high school yearmate, Trent Schmidt, US Army, Afghanistan, deceased on leave, 11/02/11
- And all of our ancestors before them...
If nothing else, we should keep them in our thoughts, and when you're having an off day with the general grumps, remember those that have been, and are still, in the skies, air, sands and trenches fighting for you to have that free will. If you are able, be generous year-round to your favourite veterans' charity. My favourite is Help for Heroes, who help the wounded veterans of the current conflicts.
edited 03/06/11 to correct font problems