A Memorial Day Reflection
Last week my son, Taylor, and I were downtown [Indianapolis]. For the first time since our move, we spent some time walking around the memorials, starting at Monument Circle and then working our way north to the Indiana War Memorial Plaza. We eventually wandered into the military museum, fascinated by this place we didn't even know existed (and it was free!).
At the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on the Circle I was struck by the numbers inscribed in the monument. For example, in the Civil War 210,407 Hoosiers served in Army and Navy. Of those, 24,416 were killed. This is out of a total population in Indiana of 1,350,428 in 1860. Over 15% of Hoosiers served in the war. Of those who served, over 11% lost their lives. Estimates of total deaths in the Civil War (north and south) range from 618,000 to 700,000. The magnitude of the losses is astounding, especially given our tolerance for war deaths over the past decade.
Memorial Day is upon us and, as you may know, it has little to do with the beginning of summer. While we may be focusing on the long weekend, cooking on the grill, the beginning of the summer worship schedule, and the Race, Memorial Day is a much more solemn occasion. The holiday was established to honor those who died in service to our nation. I believe - especially when we pray each Sunday for those who serve in the armed forces - that it is important that we mark Memorial Day and remember those who have given their lives for the freedom we so often take for granted.
And although this is not the original purpose of the holiday, perhaps we might remember those who have not died but have suffered for our nation. I think of those such as my nephew; he served in the Marines and now struggles with PTSD. He has, in a different way, given his life. Certainly, his life has been greatly altered.
Here is an old prayer that I find helpful as I anticipate this day of remembrance:
"Almighty and everlasting God, in whom all souls live now and evermore, the God not of the dead but of the living: We bless thee for all those who have faithfully lived and died in the service of their country. As we ever hold them in grateful remembrance, do thou in thy love and mercy let light perpetual shine upon them, and bring us all at last into thine eternal kingdom of peace; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen."
Perhaps, over this holiday weekend, each of us will find some moment to pray this prayer as we remember those who have given their lives to ensure that we live in freedom.
The Rev. John Denson, D. Min
Rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, IN
NEHM Board Member
- Welcome Them Home, Help Them Heal by John Sippola et al. John has presented extensive, well-received workshops on ministry to returning veterans at the last two NEHM conferences.
- Healing the Hidden Wounds of War: Parish Nurse Ministry to Veterans and Their Families Handouts 1 and 2 (2011 Workshop by John Sippola)
- Meeting the Needs of Veterans (2011 Workshop by John Sippola)
- Military OneSource
- Episcopal Veterans Fellowship
- Office of the Bishop to Armed Services and Federal Ministries
- 2009 Wounded Soldiers and Veterans General Convention Resolution
- White House Joining Forces Initiative
- Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress
- Washington Post article on the inclusion of 'Let There Be Light', a WWII film about post-traumatic stress disorder (not named at the time) recently restored and added to Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.