Honoring and Commemorating the Fallen Soldier

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(Honoring and Commemorating)

Every year in the United States, we commemorate and honor the fallen soldier who, since the Civil War, gave up his life fighting against tyranny and oppression. While preserving the time honored ceremonies of the occasion, the name has been changed from Decoration Day, to the present Veterans Day during which all veterans are thanked for their services to the United States.  

Many homes are decorated with the American flag: typically two minutes of silence starting at 11 a.m. is observed and banks, government offices and schools are closed and some businesses jump at the opportunity to offer special sales. Memorial Day, celebrated in the month of May, is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces.

Amid formal ceremonies, on varying dates of the year, countries ranging from the United Kingdom, to Nigeria remember with justified pomp and circumstance the millions of men and women who have died in the service of their respective countries fighting against despotism and injustice.

In the United Kingdom, members of the media and the public usually wear a poppy on their lapels at least a month before Remembrance Day. During the month before November 11, 40 million poppies are distributed by the Royal British Legion for the public to wear to honor their veterans. Throughout the UK a two-minute silence at 11 in the morning is observed.

Armistice Day in France is a day of reflection, commemorating with parades in various parts of the country that end at their local war memorials. Most people wear dark or black clothing during the day. Representatives from the armed forces lay wreaths at the war memorial, including the Ring of Remembrance, an international war memorial in Notre Dame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that is located in Paris. A grand parade is held at the Arc de Triomphe and one-minute of silence is observed at the 11th hour.

Naming the day Volkstrauertag, Germany honors their veterans on the Sunday that is closest to November 16. The ceremony begins with the German President and Chancellor speaking in front of the assembled members of the diplomatic corps and government officials, followed by the playing of the German National Anthem. Afterward, the songI had a Comrade(Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden), a traditional German song of lament of the country’s armed forces is played and in the provinces, after hearing mass, veterans stage marches towards the war memorials to pay respect to their fallen comrades.

Approximately 130,000 American Soldiers are buried in 25 cemeteries located in 10 foreign countries including France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Panama, Italy Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands and Tunisia. These cemeteries are administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the largest of which being the Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France with 14,246 World War I casualties, followed by the Lorraine cemetery, on the outskirts of St-Avoid. The cemetery with the most war dead administered by the ABMC is Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, with 17,201 service-members who perished in WWII.

The enormous loss of American lives in the nation’s wars, totaling 1,264,000, 620,000 in the Civil War and 644,000 in other conflicts is mind boggling. If we could only “Imagine” in the words of John Lennon, that, “...I hope someday you’ll join us…and the world will live as one.”

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