6/01/2011

American's Memorial Day 2011

When I was a small child, on Memorial Day Americans actually celebrated Memorial Day.
The scars of World War Two and Korea were still so fresh, millions would remember, mourn, and pray for hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their lives in our many wars.
Believe it or not, the day was not one more excuse to save money on a purchase.
For example, when I was a young child, a parade would pass by my house at 6826 North 15th Street in West Oak Lane in North Philadelphia. Men knew to remove their hats and cover their heats. Women covered their hearts, because many of those hearts had been broken by the death of the men who never returned to marry them to create families or to raise children.
We  would follow the parade to the Northwood Cemetery and there an honor guard would fire off volleys in honor of those who died in our wars. We would rutch and impatiently wait for the ceremony to end so we could elbow each other out and gather up the spent brass casings from the M1 rifles and compare how many we got.
Now, it is hard to find ceremonies that honor our war dead.
I've read estimates that over a million Americans have lost their lives in America's wars. That's a lot of lost lives and unfulfilled futures and billions of broken dreams. Having lost my Uncle Frank in World War II, and observing the impact it took on my dad, I know first hand how a death of a family member in  war tumbles through several generations.
But in 2011, you have to search out Memorial Day events.As I was in Philadelphia for the graduation of five nephews and nieces this Memorial Day, I woke up early and left my sleeping wife and son at 7:30 to search the streets for some sign of some reverence for America's fallen. 
I only had to walk a few  blocks from the Marriott Hotel across from Philadelphia's City Hall to find a church named St. John's. I remembered that my mother used to go there to pray when she would attend plays in center city.
Buried at St. John's, as you can see from this photo of the crypts, are many who have died in the War of 1812, the Civil War, and our many other wars.
As I was taking pictures, out of nowhere a Capuchian Friar approached me and asked if I was from the FBI. I assured him I was not, and asked if I could take a picture of him with the graves in the background.
He agreed, and then told me a story in a soft Irish lilt about Fr. Devlin, the last person who was buried there.
I  celebrate your lives, I mourn your deaths, and I vow to make this nation worthy of your sacrificial love, incredibly hard work, your spirit and grace. And I will try to emulate your example of putting your family, friends, and country before self.
Rest easy, Fr. Devlin. Some actually still remember what sacrifice means.I caught the Park Ranger washing the window of the Liberty Bell and read of the unreal sacrifice of Robert Morris, the great financial of the American Revolution who ended up in debtors prison for three years and  died penniless.Rest easy all you lads who have died in our many wars. Rest easy you who, like Robert Morris, have given everything for the American Republic and its glory. Some still remember your work, vision, and goals for this nation.
May I be worthy of your sacrifice in my best, and worst, moments.
When I returned to my home in Mt. Airy, MD that day, I went to work out at Snap Gym. On the way home I dropped into the Pine Grove Chapel. It is rarely open, but they have a beautiful small town ceremony to honor the nation's war dead on Memorial Day.
I was alone and able to sit and say a prayer for my Uncle Frank Curley, for CMDR Ronald J. Vauk and CWO William Ruth who died in the Pentagon on September 11, 2011, and for all our war dead.
Prayer is the best way to honor them, and Christ deliver them.

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