Memorial Day began as a Decoration Day to remember fallen soldiers of the Civil War (1861-65). One of the earliest commemorations took place at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi. On April 25, 1866 the ladies of the town decided to decorate both Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves with garlands and bouquets of flowers. Yesterday I led worship at historic Middleburg Baptist Church in Middleburg, VA whose building was used as a hospital during the Civil War. In Sunday School the children went out into the ancient cemetery adjacent to the church and laid flowers on the soldiers’ graves, both US and Confederate.
The Civil War ended 147 years ago. Now we find ourselves in a conflict that has lasted twice as long. Over 1,500 US troops have died in hostile action in Afghanistan; more than 3,500 in Iraq. The numbers are higher if non-combat deaths and later suicides are included. Many more US troops lost their lives in other wars: Vietnam (47,424), Korea (33,686), World War II (291,557), World War I (53,402), Civil War (140,414 USA; 72,525 CSA), Mexican-American War (1,733), War of 1812 (2,260), and the Revolutionary War (8,000).
While I support our Memorial Day tradition, I believe the best way to honor our military dead is to make no more wars.