Editor’s note: The Legionnaire recognizes most or all Memorial Day ceremonies on May 25 will not happen. Let retired Lt. Gen. Richard Nash’s words serve as your Memorial Day speech during the statewide stay-at-home order. You may reprint this in local newspapers.
Remembrance during COVID-19 social distancing
By Richard C. Nash
This year’s Memorial Day will be like no other any of us alive have ever experienced. Our daily lives, family activities, employment and social interactions have dramatically changed.
We have heard over and over and rightfully so, we are all in this together. Never in the last century have so many people been impacted to the very core of our existence where our health and lives are at risk.
We are being asked by our local state and national leaders as well as our best medical and research minds to stay at home, minimize travel, keep our social distancing and take personal responsibility for our well- being. With this being the facts for the foreseeable future, we are approaching a significant national holiday which is extremely important to all Americans and has been since the late ’60s when it was formally recognized by Congress.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day shortly after the Civil War, has been solemnly celebrated to recognize our war fatalities from the North and the South.
Every year this is a holiday for all of us where we acknowledge this day at cemeteries, grave sites of our fallen veterans, parades, fireworks, laying of wreaths, or flag presentations at our memorial sites. This year these events will be certainly smaller, fewer or actually cancelled. Our enthusiasm, responsibility, and duty to stop and remember why this day across America should not be diminished, but measured to reduce exposure to each other.
We must not let Memorial Day be just another self-isolation day without meaning or awareness. Take this special day, adjust your routine and remember those that gave and are still giving “their last full measure of devotion” and who paid the ultimate price for our freedom by honoring what they gave to all of us as we enjoy the lives we cherish today.
Those men and women suffered far more and overcame unimaginable obstacles much greater than what we are now experiencing.
We must not forget the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Hue City, Iwo Jima, D-Day, Argonne Forest or the Second Battle of Falluijah. We have lived through tremendous challenges as a country throughout our long history. The greatest generation survived four years of war on two fronts, we weathered the 9-11 attacks and continue with the longest conflict in our history with Iraq and Afghanistan.
Never before nor should we now suspend honoring those who have served and died. We are currently seeing service members who are dying while performing their duties fighting COVID-19 around the globe.
These men and women are on the front lines today along with all of our civilian first responders, doctors, nurses, healthcare providers and those taking care of our elderly family members.
Memorial Day this year is a day when we should all pause, reflect, and pray for those lives lost since the beginning of our Republic. We must pause for a moment of silence, think of all of those who have died or been killed in conflicts. Think of their families left behind and what their lives could have been and be very grateful that they stood up and filled the ranks alongside of extremely brave men and women of all services to protect you and me.
The willingness of American’s veterans to give their lives for something greater than even their own self existence must be honored and we owe that debt to their memories and acknowledge it this Memorial Day regardless of the daily challenges we are facing.
Think about how you might spend this day safely and consider calling a veteran. Thank them for serving and talk about their service and console them if they have fellow service members who were lost in action. Consider sending a donation that day to one of our Minnesota Veterans Homes, donate to your local American Legion or VFW Posts.
Use one of the many technologies and social media outlets to connect with a distance relative who served in one of the branches of service. We can do simple things like flying the flag or a visit to a cemetery near you to search for a veteran of the past.
Finally, taking time during the day, stop long enough and reflect on how with everything considered, how better off you and your family is partially due to those that have fought and died on behalf of our nation.
Those we honor on this day gave their very existence for the people and the nation they loved. The least we all can do, regardless of what is going on around us, is to stop, reflect, say a simple prayer and a thank you. They have earned our undying gratitude.
We will overcome our current crisis because we as a nation can rally, pull together our collective talents, and focus on defeating this current dilemma. America is strong because of the people. That’s just what we do in dark and trying times.
Richard C. Nash was the commander of the 34th Infantry Division during a yearlong tour of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later served as adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.