Memorial Day remembrances | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | May 29, 2017

Every year since 1968, Americans mark the unofficial beginning of summer with Memorial Day weekend (that year, Congress voted to move the holiday and three others to Mondays in order to create long weekends).

The holiday, originally on May 30 and referred to as Decoration Day, dates back to the Civil War, with citizens from Union and Confederate states placing flowers and other decorations at graves in remembrance of those lost.

Today, the last Monday in May brings time together with family and friends, warmer weather, maybe a parade and, hopefully, a moment of reflection for the millions who have fought and died in war.

With the opening of the Edmonds Veterans Plaza on May 29, I am spending more time this year contemplating the military service members and veterans who hold a place in my heart, as well as the conditions that took each of them to conflicts around the world.

The written word is typically my source of understanding or solace, so I go to a portion of a poem by Jorge Luis Borges:

It was their luck to be born into a strange time.
The planet had been parceled out among various countries,
Each one provided with loyalties, cherished memories, with
a past undoubtedly heroic, with rights, with wrongs, with a
particular mythology, with bronze forefathers, with
anniversaries, with demagogues and symbols.
This arbitrary division was favorable for wars.

In addition to the many poems and essays about war, we all know the Churchill quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” paraphrasing George Santayana. It is a quote from President Harry S. Truman that resonates strongly with me: “It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace.”

That quote is surprising since Truman’s legacy is weighted by his decision to drop atomic bombs in Japan, but the words highlight how we and our elected leaders must be cognizant of the conflict between humanity with strategy.

We must consider that each of the service members who enlist and fight for our country is someone trying to be the best man or woman for their children or someone searching for a way to make things just a little bit better. And someone who is loved.

That knowledge means we have a responsibility to be educated in the past and strive to understand how future decisions can impact political, economic and social systems, and the lives of those living in them.

The Edmonds Veterans Plaza is based on the guiding principle, “Remembering all veterans – past, present, and future.” The Memorial Day opening will build on the traditional themes of the holiday – death, sacrifice and remembrance – to recognize a space for healing and comfort, and to share stories to gain a better understanding of our past and each other.

So as we begin our Memorial Day weekends, perhaps the date of the holiday is not as important as how we interpret remembrance. Writers from Isabel Allende to James Joyce have written versions of the thought, “As long as you are remembered, you still exist.”

This plaza, this place we have created – one meant to bring community members together to learn more about and remember the wars and the people who served in them – can help us to have fewer moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, husbands, and wives who must be remembered.

The Edmonds Veterans Plaza is a cooperative venture between the city of Edmonds, Edmonds Post 8870 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Edmonds Post 66 of the American Legion and numerous community members.

The Edmonds Veterans Plaza dedication will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, May 29, in front of the Public Safety building. The committee of volunteers who raised the funds for the Edmonds Veterans Plaza (overwhelmingly through private donations) encourages all to attend.

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