Friday, May 23, 2014

Not Just a 3 Day Party

It's a sad fact that too many people seem to forget that the Memorial Day holiday is not just a 3 day party.   While so many families use the extra day off to kick off their summer with a weekend getaway, picnics, and fun.  This holiday has a much deeper meaning that goes back to the Post-Civil War era of this nation.

The Memorial Day Foundation describes its history in part:  
It is unknown when Decoration Day first became Memorial Day. The Holiday was first celebrated by the people of Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866 and then again on May 5, 1867. It could be that Decoration Day and Memorial Day were celebrated concurrently in different parts of the North for many years until World War I. The South refused to acknowledge May 30th honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I. On June 19th, 1926 by joint resolution, U.S. Congress authorized and directed the Secratary of War to accept a tablet commemorating the designation of May 30th as Memorial Day. At that time Memorial Day was made a National Holiday and changed from honoring those who died fighting just the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in all our wars. In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

Since 1971 Memorial Day is now celebrated by law on the last Monday in May. That year Congress passed the National Holiday Act, P.L. 90-363 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays.

The fact is that our nation is filled with families who have real grief for real fathers, brothers, friends, and sons who have shed their blood that we might continue to live free.  Many of these families also live with the challenge of raising a child with special needs.  This presents an incredibly difficult challenge for the surviving spouse.  Depending upon the child's diagnosis, helping that child work through that grief can take longer and require additional tools that typical children do not require.  Here are some resources that can be a blessing to surviving spouses and children:
  1. The premier organization for those enduring the loss of a fallen solder is TAPS or The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.  Among their many helps this resource offers are "grief camp" for kids, mentors for grieving spouses, an informative blog, and connections to many other necessary, helpful benefits.
  2. Operation We Are Here offers a listing of numerous tools and resources specifically for grieving families.  While their mission is to serve all families dealing with deployment, they also share pract;postID=8119862616307803086ical suggestions to churches, communities and individuals on how to support and encourage the military community.
  3. Numerous books in a variety of age groups can help a child work through their grief.  For the younger set, there are books like The Invisible String, Night Catch, or When Mom or Dad Dies: A Book for Comfort for Kids.  For teens I Will Remember You: What to Do When Someone You Love Dies - A Guidebook Through Grief for Teens gets rave reviews from both parents and the book's target audience.  
  4. The Memorial Day Foundation can help grieving families by honoring their loved one appropriately.  Besides placing flowers at the graves of the fallen, they also link to other memorial events and organizations.
This Memorial Day weekend, don't just have fun with your family, but take some time to pause, pray and reflect.  Somebody gave their life so you could enjoy such relaxation with your family.  Pray for the families of the fallen.  And encourage any military family by offering your support.  These families give all, so the rest of us can live free.

PRAY:  Lord Jesus, You told us right before you laid down your own life that there is no greater love than giving ones life for the sake of others.  Thank You for giving Your life for us.  Now bless and strengthen those who have made a similar sacrifice through our military.  Comfort their hearts this weekend.  Open our eyes always to the ways we can be Your hands and feet to those serving in our armed forces. 

~ Barb Dittrich