War Between the States

Reflections on Veterans Day

One of my duties as Music Associate at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL, is to play the organ for the annual Veterans Day service. The first of these for me was one year ago. The one part of the service that really struck me was the reading of the names of all U.S. military personnel who had died in all wars during the past year. A staggering 336 names were printed in the program and read, amidst the background of a snare drum roll, with the ominous boom of a bass drum after each name. With each boom of that drum, a penetrating, sinking feeling came over me as I thought of how the loss of that one life impacted so many loved ones. It was the longest part of the service, and it went on and on, for some 45 or 50 minutes.

Reflections on Memorial Day

I write this on May 24, the eve of Memorial Day, the day set aside to commemorate Americans who have died while in military service. This day was originally created (the first commemoration was May 30, 1868) to honor Union soldiers of the War Between the States, and was later expanded after World War I to include all those who have died in military service. Typically, commemorations can be expected to include much in the way of what is considered “patriotic” music (more accurately described as nationalistic), along with tributes themed along the lines of thanking those “who fight for our freedoms.” This spills over into Sunday services of many churches around the nation, when the emphasis temporarily focuses away from the praise of God and the proclamation of the Gospel, towards one of military service and national greatness.

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