- Benjamin Disraeli
In recent days, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the power of names and their meaning to our lives. Our names are a part of who we are in life and, as the above quote reminds us, a part of how we are remembered in death and beyond.
Memorial Day summons Americans to remember the more than 1.3 million military men and women who "gave the last full measure of devotion" in service to our country during times of war and conflict. Every year, I remember my great uncle, SSgt Francis Waldschmidt, who was killed in action when his B-17 bomber went down over the North Sea on the 3rd of September 1944. Not only does his name live on in the memories of my family, but his name is etched on the Tablets of the Missing at Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France, ensuring his name will long be remembered.
Many of our traditions for observing Memorial Day surely look different this year, not the least of which was the Presidential proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff over the weekend to honor those who have died from the coronavirus pandemic. I find it fitting that across the nation we were given, as it has been called, a visual expression for our grief.
You see, what has sparked my recent reflection on the power of names are the trackers we see as part of the 24/7 media coverage of the pandemic. This morning's tracker is reporting 97,722 deaths in the United States. That total has meaning of its own, but takes on far greater significance when one considers that each number contributing to the sum is a person with a name who will long be remembered by their families and loved ones. The editors of the New York Times clearly understand this considering the front page they ran this weekend with the names of 1,000 individuals who have died...a mere 1% of the current total.
As tragic as the loss of life has been and will continue to be, not to mention the economic losses and the impact on our collective psyche, our country has risen to overcome national tragedies before and this one will be no exception.
I am proud to wear the cloth of our nation and grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve the men and women of the US Navy. My prayer this Memorial Day is in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; that, we, the living, whether or not we wear a uniform, will rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work which those who have gone before us fought to nobly advance. May we take increased devotion to that cause for which so many gave the last full measure of devotion. May we resolve that they shall have not died in vain. May this nation experience a new birth of freedom.
O God, let it be so.