Monday, May 28, 2018
For many, Memorial Day is just another Monday holiday--a time to relax a bit more in a busy work season. For some, the celebration of Memorial Day means sales and barbecues and community parades, fairs, and similar events. (I linked to events in my home town, Garden City, NY, and the greater Long Island area.) Many view Memorial Day as a time to commemorate all veterans, something we also do on Veterans Day in the fall. (The linked article celebrates the work of some entrepreneurial veterans in the Knoxville community.)
Many of these ways of celebrating Memorial Day involve reflection of some kind. At its core, Memorial Day seems to encourage a particular kind of reflection--a moment to recall and honor those who have died for our country in the course of military service. That general encouragement is consistent with, but not completely reflective of, the text of the federal law establishing the holiday, which expressly calls for the President to call us to united prayer* for permanent peace:
The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation—
(1) calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;
(2) designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;
(3) calling on the people of the United States to unite in prayer at that time; and
(4) calling on the media to join in observing Memorial Day and the period of prayer.
Peace, of course, prevents the death of military servants that occurs in war time. That is a worthy objective. The President's proclamation for today can be found here. He reminds us that "[t]he Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance."
Those who fight for our safety and freedom as members of the armed forces are special kinds of heroes. Those who die in the act of that service sacrifice their own lives for ours. That service and sacrifice is significant to me. I plan to take a few moments out today--including the time I took to compose this post and also some time at 3:00 p.m.--to engage in reflection over what it means to spend and lose one's life in service to country and to ask for permanent peace. I hope that you will, too.
* I take the position that, notwithstanding the reference in the text of the law to religious faith, one need not align oneself with a particular religious faith to pray for permanent peace. Dictionary definitions note secular definitions of the word as well as religious ones, e.g., here and here. (Of course, pleadings include prayers for relief, so we lawyers know and recognize that the term has a more general meaning.)