Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

From Wikipedia:

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit....

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

excerpted from General Orders No. 11, Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters

Every nation has such an order, proclamation or law requiring a day of rembrance for those who have fallen in battle. I am a nurse and have never been a member of any kind of military organization but I am well acquainted with war. Growing up in Thailand during the Vietnam War I spent my weekends helping my mother cook seafood dishes, vegetables and Pad Thai for the Vietnamese
refugees who were in a camp just half an hour from our home.

My mother's family came to Thailand from Vietnam and she believed that as Catholics we had an obligation to help these victims of a long and tragic civil war. Not all the refugees were Catholics but they were all in need and so each Saturday we would prepare food to take to the camp.

There were camps for Hmong refugees as well, and that is where I learned to speak Hmong. Later, after I emmigrated to the United States, I worked as a volunteer at the Center for Victims of Torture where I learned still more about the terrible things done to innocent people in times of war and political oppression.

Growing up in Thailand, a peaceful kingdom surrounded by the wars of others, I came to respect the teachings of Buddha. One of my favorite teachings of the Buddha is that you will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. Memorial Day is a good day to reflect upon the folly of war and the need for peace.

May this Memorial Day be meaningful to you, and guide your thoughts regarding the conduct of nations and the importance of finding non-violent solutions to the world's many problems.