By John Kerney, Executive Director
Memorial Day – a day that we reflect on and honor the millions who have given their lives in service to our country. We show our gratitude and respect to the many men and women from diverse backgrounds who were unified in fighting and ultimately dying to protect our liberties, our freedom, and against injustice, oppression and hate.
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the service and loss of lives coming into Memorial Day 2021, and I have come to the following conclusions. First – we now have to honor the loss of thousands of lives of a new class of warriors – those many health care workers and first responders who gave their lives over the last fifteen months trying to protect Americans from a new menace – a pandemic. We owe our gratitude to them and their colleagues who continue to struggle and battle on across the country. As challenging and sad this year was, their work and sacrifices have protected us from enduring an even worse outcome. My thoughts today are also with those families who lost these caring and committed people.
And, it feels that COVID has almost blurred our vision and other senses, distracting us and preoccupying us from fully grappling with and making progress against more sinister and invasive enemies – hate, injustice and racism. The one year mark of the murder of George Floyd – who has unwittingly and unnecessarily become an important warrior against racism, ignorance and hate – reminds of how much work is left to be done on this critical battlefield. Recent hate crimes and racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are an ugly reminder that on this day – the centennial of the Tulsa Massacre – that we still have a lot of hard work ahead.
These enemies, the despicable forces of oppression, hate and racism, are what so many that we honor on Memorial Day gave their lives to defeat. Wouldn’t we be doing a better job of honoring those more than a million American warriors who lost their lives if we were to commit ourselves to fighting much harder to defeat these forces?
The good news is that unlike prior generations, the new enemy is not a country or an alliance, and that evil does not need to be fought with guns from foxholes in ungodly conditions. This enemy is amongst us, and it can be fought largely with our voices and our actions.
On this Memorial Day, let’s pledge and rededicate ourselves to the millions of Americans who have lost their lives defending us and our values over the last three centuries – and the families that they have left behind – by fighting on – against injustice and racism, speaking out and acting against hate and inequity against anyone of any background, color, religion, ethnicity, race or gender – never turning a blind eye. Too many have already lost their lives or suffered undue hardship due to unlawful arrest, wrongful incarceration, and violence and hate at the hands of would-be oppressors. This most important war can be won and injustices ended with sacrifices far less than loss of life and the hardship suffered by those that we honor on this day. We can each be a peaceful warrior by educating about and fighting injustice, pushing for inclusivity and equity, stepping in to stop racism and hate – and always being kind, inclusive and respectful.
This would be the respectful, purposeful, and enduring way to honor over a million Americans who have lost their lives protecting us and our freedom. I hope that all of us in The Winchendon School will make this Memorial Day Pledge in our shared commitment to ending racism, inequity, and injustice and our continuing to thrive to be the most inclusive, fair, and welcoming community.
May 31, 2021