To many veterans of war every day is memorial day — a day of remembrance.
The Memorial Day we know wasn’t always called Memorial Day. For a time it was Decoration Day remembering the soldiers killed in the Civil War. It was the day to pause and reflect and remember and honor the war dead and the terrible cost of war.
In my life there are those killed in battle; there are some dying of visible wounds long after the fighting has ended. Then there are others dying of invisible wounds of the soul. Our modern Memorial Day has become an opportunity for annual sales — a commodity of sorts. Memorial Day is sacred to those who pay attention to the sacred intention of honoring the dead and their families. To those who see Memorial Day as a day for revenue profit diminish the sacredness of remembrance for everyone.
Historians may inform us of dates, times and “facts,” but it is the poet who describes what those events did to us.
To illustrate, I offer a poem I wrote, entitled “A war Poem of Remembering.”
The poem of war ought to be light enough to carry
and strong enough to hold
the unbearable weight of sorrow and sadness.
The dead have no voice but mine.
I carry them —- the dead.
How can I speak for them?
In their death is my dying.
In dying I discover the truth.
For what reason did you die, my friend?
Truth is the first casualty of war.
What is the measured value
that would exact such a price
that brings grief and sorrow to a mother and father
widow a husband or wife,
orphan a child.
Is there a poem strong enough
to hold these truths and light enough to carry?
I cannot carry this alone.
The Rev. Dr. John Schluep is a resident of Silver Lake and Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church
of Tallmadge, UCC. He is the founder of Warriors’ Journey Home and a veteran having served in the Army.