Casey Neumiller: A Challenge For Memorial Day


(Warning: no tongue-in-cheek to follow.)

Memorial Day is often celebrated as the kickoff for summer. This year in particular it fits, as graduation for many of the local high schools are on Sunday, officially closing out the school year.

This year, I’d like to challenge you to do something besides grilling, camping, or fishing. Take a few hours out of your summer weekend to attend a Memorial Day service. I asked our gracious host to attend the Washburn services, and I believe he is planning on it, so I extend that challenge to all of you as well.

My family doesn’t have a tradition of military service. A few of us have served, though I’m not among them. My wife’s family has a similar history – we all tend to be farmers or laborers, not soldiers.

That makes Memorial Day all the more important.

Our country has a history of warfare. That hardly makes us unique; every country in the world, good or bad, is built on and maintained by the blood of soldiers. In the modern world, many of the Western countries have reduced their militaries to small fractions of the strength they’ve used to fight wars, believing that peace is the only acceptable option. But Humanity has hardly become less violent since the turn of the century, and there’s plenty of men who would love to exert their will on others.

It has always been the soldier that stands in their way.

In the modern world, the US military has stood as a defender of the Western world, and has since the close of World War II.

During the Vietnam War, it was trendy to denigrate those in the service as marauders and baby-killers, as war criminals and murderers. The eventual backlash against such over-the-top attacks meant a new respect for the men and women in uniform, but as with nearly everything, the cycle turns, and I don’t doubt someday soon our soldiers will be slandered again.

Regardless of where in the cycle we are, it’s important to remember our fallen soldiers. It’s important to remember the battles they fought, the lives they gave, the blood they shed to secure our freedoms.

Few words give me chills like the most somber part of the local Memorial Day service: the reading of the local dead. In past years, each attendee at the local service is given a program on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. On one side is the local program – the prayers by an attending minister from one of the local churches, the presentation of the colors, music by the school choir, a speech from an invited guest speaker.

But on the other side of that sheet of paper, in small font, grouped by cemetery and by war, is a list of the local dead.

You likely wouldn’t think a small town of 1300 people would have many.

You would be wrong.

So, for Memorial Day in 2014, I encourage you to attend a Memorial Day service. Listen to the speaker. Smile at the kids singing. Watch the parade afterward. Most of all, ponder on those who fought for our country, those who are no longer with us, those who wore the uniform to fight for their country.

The least they deserve are those few hours from us on one Monday a year.