Column: Memorial Day, and a poemWORTHINGTON — As summer approaches, our nation recognizes the last Monday in May. It became a tradition to honor soldiers who had died during the Civil War.
By: Al Swanson, Daily Globe Historical Columnist, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As summer approaches, our nation recognizes the last Monday in May.
It became a tradition to honor soldiers who had died during the Civil War. It was a day in which the women went to the battlefields to place wreaths on the graves of the soldiers who had died there.
That day was set in 1868. It was an attempt to hallow the lives of those who had given their lives. They were the victims of a war, and it was meant to show that their deaths were to give freedom to this nation and make the world “safe for democracy.”
As it turned out, it was a war that didn’t end wars. It was really the beginning of many wars — not always glorious, but sometimes dirty, dangerous and disastrous. It could have been a lesson that society should learn. Wars are seldom over. They often cause bigger problems, lessons they never learned.
There is a poem written by Archibald MacLeisch in 1948. It points out what frequently happens.
The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are held in still houses; who has not heard them? They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could but until it is finished, it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives; but until it is finished, no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing, we cannot say; it is you who must say this.
They say: We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning. We were young they say. We have died. Remember us.
He calls out to the next generation, to every generation. They died, but must not have died in vain. Society must learn from the past. They must make every effort to reach out to the world. Past wars didn’t reach out. Without wars, wouldn’t it be a better place. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful place.
We must listen with our hearts to the voices of young, dead soldiers.
We must remember that they died and why. We must remember to continue to wage peace. We must remember for that peace; they died for it. We cannot let their sacrifices be in vain. We must not.
Al Swanson is president emeritus of the Nobles County Historical Society.