My New Embrace Of Heroic Honor

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger then oneself.” (Joseph Campbell.)

I used to think of Memorial Day Monday solely as a self-indulgent reminder that my stressful teaching year in inner city schools would soon end with some well deserved freedom in summer. Narrow-minded visions of a sumptuous picnic or a sunny off-day at the beach typically occupied my mind during these times. My indifference to the expected military pageantry of this holiday seemed further driven by the cynicism of student protest that intensified for me during the Vietnam War period in my undergraduate college years.

In retrospect, however, it’s clear to me that I’ve made a poor choice to ignore the true meaning of this important patriotic holiday in my life. For I’ve grown wiser through the years and thus now deeply regret my past failure to give tribute to the countless number of men and women who lost their lives serving our country so honorably and courageously in the past. Understand then why I feel grateful today for possessing the folded American flag from my father’s funeral that now lies front and center in our condo living room. For this flag provides a vivid reminder for me to remember often my father’s great courage in having flown multiple bombing missions over Nazi Germany as an Army Air Force gunner in World War II. Most recently, my yoga classes have also given me a useful forum to manage my “inner pain” of past Memorial Day forgetfulness. For in silencing my ego through meditation, I’ve resolved in the spiritual presence of “Dharma” to pay homage in action to America’s military past on this most cherished day.

So next Monday morning , I will lay a bouquet of flowers on my father’s grave and perhaps say a few much needed words to him then that feels appropriate. In the afternoon I will take some time to engage in a spirited “pep talk” with my mother about my father’s admirable military past. I close this entry with some key historical events in American History that I’ve observed in my travels that might spark interest  in your Memorial Day reflections. 

George Washington’s heroism in battle during the American Revolution made him a popular choice to become our first U.S. President.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s strong leadership provided a rallying call for Union Army generals and troops to keep the faith in their heroic cause.
President Lincoln’s 1863 Address at Gettysburg, in particular, expressed an honorable tribute to all soldiers who lost their life on this battlefield during the Civil War.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s foresight to achieve Allied control of the seas prior to World War II, heightened the importance of dutiful service in the U.S. Navy.
These personal items of a common soldier during the Civil War show that thoughts of loved ones at home provided an element of comfort for them before facing the horrors of an upcoming battle.
While in the case of this World War I foot soldier, military preparedness could be manifested in a variety of personal ways.
Soldiers in modern warfare witnessed the horrors of new weaponry along the European battle line in World War I.
While soldiers “holed up” in unsanitary trench warfare conditions, they  endured long stalemate situation facing enemy lines.

Compulsory military service laws in the two World Wars often dictated one’s readiness to fight when wartime occurred.
While print media traditions amassed public support for the war effort in more voluntary ways.
Impressive monuments remain standing throughout America today to memorialize extraordinary war heroes from the past.
This important question remains, however, as we ponder a deeper look at Memorial Day celebrations. Does any loss of life in battle justify the pursuit of war?

9 thoughts on “My New Embrace Of Heroic Honor

  1. Such a reminder and a tribute. But tell me Usfman, as you have seen decades of transition happening in front of you through the Vietnam days to Afghanistan to how the US is playing out with the Chinese, please write about where the US policies and your personal thoughts on where we as one world are being lead towards?

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  2. I’m touched you ask. It seems to me that America’s role in extending Democracy across the globe lies at a critical juncture now given that this very concept in the U.S. is threatened now by a extremist right wing agenda Jan. 6 should never be forgotten not swept under the rule as these pseudo Republicans seem to be suggest. Other countries will see our guiding light thus incorrectly.

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  3. Thank you for sharing about your new found appreciation for memorial day. It was interesting learning about how your father used to serve your country and how you now understand the importance of celebrating this celebration. I’m not sure if we have a memorial day here in The Netherlands. I guess I’ll check and see.

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