In the car park of a local church there’s a spot where, once the Remembrance Day wreaths are removed, the outline of a cross can still be seen, a shadow on the tarmac. I always walk around it, and I’d guess others do too, because there’s almost something sacred about it, partly because hey, it’s a cross, but also what it represents in terms of civic society – a memorial to those fallen in battle, a reminder of those who are serving their country as we speak.
Here in the UK we remember the war dead in November, but in the States today is Memorial Day. I don’t think it matters on which day we pause and reflect and remember, but to do so is important to our national psyches. And in this day and age, when war seems sometimes to be nothjng but an extension of political agendas, it’s perhaps doubly important to remember that those men and women fighting and dying for their countries, are individuals, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, real people with real lives and not some faceless arm of government policy, not some exciting backdrop to CNN reports from Afghanistan. Ordinary people like my great-uncle who was captured at Dunkirk all those years ago and lived out the remainder of the war as a POW.
I know it’s easy to sentimentalise this sort of thing; I hate it when tabloids patronisingly refer to “our boys” and “our girls”. They’re getting shot at, getting torn into by explosions, and seeing things you ‘d hope no-one would ever have to see. I’d think they’ve earned the right and the dignity to be called men and women, not boys and girls.
Anyway, whether you’re in America or not, take time to think about whatever your connection is to conflict and war, be it historical or current. Let this Memorial Day be a time to put a human face on the people serving, and hope and pray for their safety and their futures. And that they’d be able to return home soon.