This is a Time for Reflection, Remembrance

May 28, 2019

Observed on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day honors the men and women of this country who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Previously known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years after the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, and participating in parades, events that will be held in several of our local communities and across the state this weekend.

It’s also become an occasion to remember all of our deceased loved ones by adorning their graves with flowers or other items of affection.

The Civil War, which ended in April 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, required the establishment of this nation’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans began holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

The first official proclamation was issued by Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of the U.S. Army, who declared May 30, 1868, as the day when flowers were to be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

That began a somber tradition that continues today.

For more than 60 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has honored America’s fallen by placing American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravesites for service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, just prior to the Memorial Day Weekend.

This tradition, known as “Flags in,” has been conducted annually since the 3rd was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit in 1948. Every available soldier in the regiment participates, placing small American flags at each headstone and at the bottom of each niche row.

Area residents and those within driving distance from Greater Lowell can experience a semblance of the emotions elicited by that hallowed ground by visiting the Vietnam Moving Wall, which will rest in front of the Public Library in Pelham this Memorial Day Weekend.

The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., comes inscribed with the nearly 60,000 names of our relatives, friends and neighbors who died in that nation-dividing war in Southeast Asia, including three from Pelham — Lt. Col. Sheldon J. Burnett, Warrant Officer Barry W. Godfrey and Medical Specialist Edward G. Kiluk.

It’s that spirit of reverence and remembrance that exemplifies the true meaning of this solemn day, not the unofficial start of the summer season, or an excuse to tempt Americans over a three-day weekend with great deals on furniture, mattresses or automobiles.

It’s often lost — especially by our political leaders in Washington — that the deaths of those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice defending this country shouldn’t be squandered over the settling of personal scores or promotion of political agendas.

Perhaps if President Trump and his political adversaries could share a reflective moment among the sea of American flags in this sacred place, they could yet inject some sanity into our fractured political discourse.