Lest we forget

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East Boothbay on Memorial Day

(photo by Kevin Burnham 2018)

Words cannot fully describe how lovely Monday’s Memorial Day gathering was in East Boothbay and all over our Boothbay Peninsula. The sun was brightly shining, the sky was blue, the flags were waving in the fresh sea breeze, all ages were freely gathered in our historic villages to remember those who have died in service to our nation, and our hearts were full with a myriad of emotions.

There was a moment when we all were singing the National Anthem with our community band and veterans when it seemed we were in all places and all times. We were in union with all those who have died in battle and all those who have gathered to remember the war dead throughout all time. It brings tears to my eyes, such love in community which flows out of profound mourning and our shared sadnesses of war from generation to generation. Always we pray that we won’t study war no more. Always we hope and pray for lasting peace.

Here are my remarks delivered to the gathered on Monday at East Boothbay. Several veterans stopped me afterward to talk more about their experience of wartime. It is an honor to listen. We don’t have pictures yet, but last year’s pic looks very much like this year’s pic. I love that too about our little villages here by the sea.

mjh+

Memorial Day Address
May 27, 2019
East Boothbay, Maine
Maria J. Hoecker+

(welcome)…Today we stand here together to remember and pass forward the ideals of freedom that our nation’s founders dreamed of and for which our forebears lived and died.

East Boothbay is always the last stop for this long Memorial Day parade. I’m mindful that these dear veterans, color guard, and community band have already heard four other speakers this morning! All morning our veterans have led the way all over this part of the Boothbay Peninsula as we remember those who have died in service to our country. Because they gather, we gather with them, bringing out our flags and singing our national anthem with our community band.

Each year on this day, we gather together at this spot in our road to remember those who gave their lives to preserve the peace and freedoms which we enjoy …frankly, freedoms which we take for granted. What a luxury it is, to take our freedom for granted. Our veterans see it more keenly than the rest of us. And yet we do choose to return to this spot each year. Each year we renew our collective commitment to preserve liberty and justice for all…. not just for some of us, but for all of us. That’s our American Dream on this bright sunny blue sky day with flags waving in the breeze.

We especially honor those who have lost their lives defending our freedoms from generation to generation. We are inexplicably grateful for their courageous service.

“We also stand together today to honor those who return from battle-scarred and injured in body, mind, and spirit. We owe you more than our gratitude; we owe you every resource and support for hope and reconciliation as long as you live. We extend our deepest thanks to those who serve our veterans, and for their families.” (from Episcopal Cafe)

How many of you remember when this day was called “Decoration Day?” Today’s remembrance began following one of the most openly conflicted eras in our country’s history: the Civil War. Families fought against families and very nearly destroyed this nation as we know it today. It was an era of deep mourning as an entire generation of young men were killed in farm fields which too quickly became battlefields. It was the deeply grieving families of the dead soldiers on both sides of the war who needed and created a day of remembrance which endures 155 years later. Just down the road from here along the river is a Union soldier cemetery called Green’s Point Landing. I hope some can take their flags to those graves today.

As many of you know, I’m “from away,” but I come from a place out on the prairie much like East Boothbay. I come from Bleeding Kansas where the Civil War got started early, in the late 1850s.

I’ve lived in three parts of our United States which were deeply affected by the War Between The States: Kansas, Tennessee & North Carolina, and Maine. If you remember your history, in the late 1850s Kansas became the battleground for the war-before-the-war in a deadly battle over whether it was to be admitted to the Union as a free state or a slave state. Before the vote, fighters from the North and the South poured into the Kansas Territories and savagely murdered each other. Neighbors killed their own neighbors during that war, neighbors from all across this half of our nation went to war against each other on all fronts.

During that troubled time, Abraham Lincoln, before he was nominated to be president by a brand new abolition party, toured the Kansas Territories in a carriage in the dead of winter. He was practicing his Coopers’ Union address out on the front lines of the war in Kansas. A few months later that speech in NYC won him the nomination as President in May of 1860 and the election toward the end of the year.  In December of 1859, Abraham Lincoln courageously stood on the steps of the Methodist parsonage and delivered his stirring address in enemy territory. That Methodist church was much like the one we’re standing in front of right now only it was in my home town in Kansas along the Missouri River. My hometown was founded by pro-slavery factions. Lincoln delivered that rousing speech and helped turn the tide toward Kansans voting to enter the Union as a Free State. I’ll never forget it and I wasn’t even born yet for another 100 years. Kansas’ Free State vote in January 1861 launched the Civil War when Lincoln was elected president at the close of 1860. To legions of people it felt like their world was collapsing and it was.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to the South in 2002 and learned that down South, the Civil War was called the War of Northern Aggression! “Say whaaaaat?” said this Bleeding Kansan. I lived down South for ten years and slowly learned why my new neighbors saw it that way. And then I moved up here to Yankeedom in Maine in 2012 and I was dismayed to occasionally see Confederate flags being flown in Maine! “say whaaaaat?” Then I thought about it, isn’t that exactly what the Union Army was fighting for? The freedom for anyone to fly a flag of their choice in these United States? Still, I do want to go up to those persons and gently ask, “Do you know how many men from Maine died to preserve the Union during the Civil War? Do you know what the Confederates were fighting for? Do you know Maine’s history?

Sometimes it seems our nation is every bit as divided now as it was during the not-so Civil War. Neighbors are fighting with neighbors. Our battlefields are in the streets and online. It seems sometimes that our nation’s troubled history is gearing up to repeat itself. Do we remember what freedoms our fallen soldiers fought for?

Do we know our history well enough to overcome it?

On March 4, 1865, only 41 days before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln took his second oath of office. Lincoln’s second inaugural address previewed his plans for healing a deeply divided and bleeding nation. It still rings true today as our work toward healing as a nation continues. His speech can be found inscribed on the north chamber wall of the Lincoln Memorial.

It ends with this. ”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

We as people of faith must make an effort to remember our history. We must read, mark, and inwardly digest what it is that generations of our soldiers fought and died for on land, on the seas, and in the air. Our veterans teach us with their presence today. In their remembering, we remember. We must study and know our history so that we don’t repeat it. Lest we forget, these men and women made the “ultimate sacrifice” of their lives to defend the freedoms we have today. Are we willing to do the same for the next generations to come?

Though personally, we cannot thank service members who have died in service of their country, surely we will continue to honor them each and every day by upholding the guiding principles of our nation which preserves liberty and justice for all… not just for some, but for ALL.

A Prayer for Memorial Day

God of power and mercy, you destroy war and put down earthly pride. Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. Keep in your mercy those men and women who have died in the cause of freedom and hold them in your kingdom of justice and peace. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source for prayer: http://www.usccb.org (from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)

For further reading:

The Forgotten History of Memorial Day

For further singing:

O God of Every Nation

For further watching:

Here’s a wee glimpse of East/Boothbay’s remembrances on Memorial Day. It’s inspiring each year to stand together in peace, reflect on peace, and sing the national anthem with our community band and veterans. Thank you, Boothbay Register and Cody at BRCTV, for these stirring glimpses of our Memorial Day spent together in community. https://youtu.be/304044s1A8g

 

Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address as portrayed by actor Walter Trumbull.

 

A thoughtful and informative discussion of multi-domain operations with General Robert Brown, Commander of the US Army Pacific:

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