Memorial Day 2023 / En Familia, May 2023
As we approach Memorial Day and take time to remember and honor service members who sacrificed their lives to defend our rights and freedoms, the Association of Naval Services Officers invites members and associates to pause, offer reverence, and reflect on their legacy. The memory of Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Soldiers, and Airmen who served our country until the end is still alive. There are many lessons to learn from each of them.
Historically, Memorial Day goes back to the years after the Civil War. On 5 May 1868, General John A. Logan released General Order No. 11 and provided guidance on the observance. The order states: “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.” Opportunities to decorate our fallen heroes’ gravesites are available around the world. The most traditional is decorating with flowers. However, others use flags, painted rocks, or coins as a remembrance. Symbols of this strong bond and connection are endless.
In the second paragraph of the Order, General Logan highlights the purpose of the observance, “We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tells us, for the purpose, among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes?” By keeping their legacy alive, speaking their names, and bringing to our memories their honorable service, we preserve and strengthen the relationships that inspire us to keep serving.
While many cities, veteran organizations, and public entities put together special memorials to bring communities together in honor of our Service Members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. These observances provide a sacred space and time to connect with intentionality. Some Service Members and Veterans may prefer to pay their respects on their own, in private, in silence, and acknowledging the journey of grief and impact of the loss of a friend, a brother, or sister, in arms. Whether in public or private, through an organized event, or in your unique way, honor the legacy of those who have gone. Their lives never end, and their sacrifices are always remembered.
The invitation to sacrifice for someone else is a challenging proposal. Many qualify the worth of actions according to personal gains. Service and sacrifice shift the focus from self to the good of neighbors, communities, and nations. Running into service and sacrifice requires commitment and vision. Author and poet Charles Bukowski wrote a powerful poem about the meaning and purpose of sacrifice:
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery-isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
This legacy of service and sacrifice is what we honor on this Memorial Day and what serves as an inspiration to live a life dedicated to service and sacrifice.