I have typed and deleted and typed and deleted and typed and deleted this particular post several times now. I’ve ruminated on the meaning of Memorial Day, ranted over how furniture and carpet sales have taken over a day that was meant to remember that have given their lives fulfilling their Oath of Enlistment, and I’ve sat here crying over a friend too wonderful to put to words in life, much less to mention the cruelty of their death–particularly when their death, though surely as much a casualty of war as an IED or a bullet, occurred after they came home in less “honorable” (to society) circumstance. Some of what I want to say is too off topic to show any respect for the spirit of Memorial Day, some of it is too hard to put into words, and some of what I want to say, are not my own words, and I do not want to get them wrong by trying to paraphrase, so they will have to wait.
It is a common tradition in the military to have an empty table at banquets and dinners, and even on the mess decks and mess halls of ships and bases. This table is set in honor of POW/MIA military members, from all branches, and when done right, is one of the most hauntingly eloquent rituals that I have ever experienced. It is also traditional within several Pagan paths to fix meals for the gods as part of the household, to leave offerings for spirits or for the gods, or to hold a dumb supper as part of the Samhain celebration. As a Pagan family with two veterans, both with family histories of military service, it seemed fitting to join these two ideas, by setting and serving and serving a place with the family meal and taking a some time to recognize the service and the ultimate sacrifice that 1.7 million American men and women have made in the line of duty for their fellow citizens.
The young dead soldiers do not speak. Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them? They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts. They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us. They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done. They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them. They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this. They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning. We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us. poem by Archibald MacLeish
Let us remember the countless and often unknown women that have served their country from its conception and died in combat, despite prohibitions against such service.
Let us remember those of the Pagan community that have given their life in service to their country, despite often being an unrespected minority in both environments.
Let us remember those that have died in service, whether that be in the moment of battle, or months or years after they have returned to a home-that-is-no-longer-home, unable to find their way.
Let us remember all of those that have died fulfilling their Oath of Enlistment–to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, bearing true faith and allegiance to the same, and doing their job, so that others within our populace do not have to.
Let us celebrate their lives, however short they may have been cut. Let us thank their families and extend them our sympathies, for the anguish of loss that has allowed us to stay home, or to come home safely if we have served. Let us remember, and let us find a way to give their lives and their deaths meaning.