Memorial Day has never seemed more meaningful

“L et no ravages of time testify to coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” Th...

“Let no ravages of time testify to coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Those were the words of General John A. Logan, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his first call for the observance of Memorial Day in 1868.

Given where we are as a nation today, are there words more eloquent or poignant?

On Monday, I will join other veterans across New England in following General Logan’s orders to honor and remember the fallen, and I will salute the colors under which they served.

It’s a sacred honor we know all too well in the Valley where for 150 years, the village of Florence, through peacetime and wartime, through fair weather and, yes, even pandemics, has faithfully hosted and organized the Florence Memorial Day parade.

Monday morning, I’ll visit the graves of war dead and I’ll read the names inscribed in granite at cemeteries where I know they are buried.

But, in the afternoon, I will find a nearby trail and find an outdoors haven where I know I won’t see anyone, and I will go silent.

There, in complete tranquility, I’ll think of brothers and sisters lost in lands thousands of miles away and thousands of days ago. And I’ll ask myself if I’m worthy of their sacrifice. Have I earned the life I now have? Have I done enough?

Then at precisely 3 p.m., I will stop, and, in complete silence, in the middle of a western Massachusetts forest, I will renew my vow to never forget them. And to make good on my promise to be a better person. To be a more caring, more compassionate, more loving human being.

I will tell myself to not get angry over trivial things. I will not take a single day for granted. I will love thy neighbor and I will refuse hate.

Some miles away, South Hadley’s Brian Willette will have concluded two ceremonies that morning in his hometown, and then he will participate in a third ceremony in Ludlow. He will read General Logan’s orders and recite Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address. Memorial Day has always been an important and busy day for the Willette family.

His father, William F. Willette, served in the Army Honor Guard in Washington D.C., and was the deputy director of Veterans Services in Springfield for many years.

“We’ve always taken this day seriously,” says Brian, who has learned over the years to use Memorial Day as a teaching moment.

With attention spans so short these days, he knows he needs to be part educator and part entertainer, so he uses a multimedia presentation during his ceremonies to describe the history and traditions of the day.

“I take a lot of pride in doing the best job I can in following General Logan’s orders and in honoring our fallen heroes,” says Brian, the state commander of the Department of Massachusetts for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “It’s our job to make sure the public understands on a human level who they were and what they did.”

The medal is given to members of the United States armed forces who have been wounded or awarded posthumously to loved ones in remembrance of kin killed in the line of duty. It is one of our nation’s highest military honors.

Brian, a retired Army staff sergeant, received the Purple Heart after barely surviving an attack in eastern Afghanistan in 2010. His armored vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. His son, Kevin Willette, also served in Afghanistan where he, too, received the Purple Heart as well as the Bronze Star with V device for Valor. His daughter, Air Force Master Sgt. Christine Lupacchino, is an Iraq veteran and serves with the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing stationed at Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield.

On Memorial Day, we will be joined together as members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA.

IAVA on Memorial Day is calling on all Americans to #GoSilent for one minute at 3 p.m. to remember those lost in combat.

Willette and I have talked a lot this past year about who we are as a nation and where we are going. Never in our lifetimes have we felt our democracy to be so fragile or our social fabric so frayed.

Memorial Day this year has never seemed more meaningful.

While we may live in uncertain times, there is one thing that is certain. We must do what we can to keep our promise to our nation’s war dead that they did not die in vain.

That starts with talking less and listening more to our neighbors. I know that can be tough to do. If you’re like me, your brain is overloaded, oversaturated with data from smartphones, social media notifications, and bombarded with hundreds of daily emails. We’re Zoomed out.

I wonder what the 19th century General Logan would think of our 21st century nationwide attention deficit and today’s constant echo chamber. What would he say about our hyper digital society and our inability at times to stay focused on what’s important?

This Memorial Day, let go of the noise.

We have the rest of this weekend to celebrate the coming of summer. We can get to our news feeds later. We can binge watch another time. But at 3 p.m., Monday, at a minimum, put it all down, and pause and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.

#GoSilent in honor of the men and women who served our country and died protecting it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Memorial Day has never seemed more meaningful
Memorial Day has never seemed more meaningful
Newsrust - US Top News
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