Memorial Day Prayer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff on 28 May 2018

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Almighty God,
We pray, reflect, meditate in different ways …
but come together to mourn our dead,
remember their sacrifice,
and honor their memory.

150 years ago – almost to the day – after the Civil War,
America created Decoration Day:
a time to visit graves of our war dead,
and decorate them with flags and flowers.
Time passed.
New wars fought.
Many graves now too far to visit:
across the seas,
or even in the ocean, deep;
some bodies,
destroyed by ever more powerful weapons of war,
had no graves at all.

So Decoration Day became Memorial Day:
a time not just to decorate graves,
but to commemorate lives,
and to consecrate sacrifice, heroism, loss –
through the stories we tell,
and the lives that we lead.

Today, as we remember those whose names are on this wall,
along with all who perished, fighting America’s wars,
let us recall the words of Archibald McLeish
in his poem “The Young Dead Soldiers”:
“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.
We leave you our deaths.
Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say.
We have died. Remember us.”

God,
on this Memorial Day we mourn,
remember and honor our fallen.
May their sacrifice help us build a world
where we might finally beat our swords into ploughshares
and war will be no more.[1]Cf. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3. 
And may we say, Amen.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Cf. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3.

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