For any who have served overseas in times of war or received news of the death of a loved one from such a conflict, Memorial Day is forever changed. Our hearts grow heavy, eyes laden with held back tears, and old wounds and losses are fresh once again. Young voices crack and mature warriors retreat to silence. And we all, for a time, embrace the pain, the hurt and the knowledge of such great loss.
In short, as much as it hurts, we remember.
For veterans, the day can be a very hard one. It is not Thank-A-Veteran Day; it is a day to remember the ones who did not return. It is about loss…of the faces of the grieving…on the battlefield…at the graveside…and even sometimes at the front door, to tell a family their loved one will not be coming home.
In just a few short days, Memorial Day will be upon us. Yes, there are the community ceremonies as well as flags placed on the graves of those who served in our nation’s military from Arlington to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. But what about your neighborhood, your street, your home? To this end, one simple, yet important way to remember is to place a flag in front of our home. In so doing, we say to any in our neighborhood, “Our household has not forgotten!”
Perhaps next door to you or simply driving down your street on Memorial Day will be a mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter, husband or wife, sweetheart or children, who will wonder if anyone remembers or even thinks about their grief on this day. Then, passing by your home, your flag in place will say to that friend or stranger, “We have not forgotten.”
In my own congregation, Sunday the day before Memorial Day is the one day when I will wear my uniform into church. Like all veterans, I do not wear it as an act of patriotism but rather as a sign of remembrance.
There we will ask for the name, service and place where a loved one was lost. Then we will pray—as will happen in houses of worship throughout our nation—for comfort, strength, in thanksgiving and the hope that someday, there will come a time when we will study war no more forever.
Frank Riley is the Senior Pastor at Grace Hill Church in Morgan Hill. A Commander in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps and the U.S. Fleet Forces Reserve Chaplain, he has served combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Pastor Riley is a part of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County and can be reached at [email protected].