Facebook Post by Rabbi Perlin in the Time of Coronavirus (5/25/2020)
Monday Post 5.25.20: A Memorial Day Muse: The American Flag
by Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, D.D.
I continue to pack and sort our belongings each day, in anticipation of what we think will be a June move. Marie Kondo would not be happy with me, as I am holding on to far more than she would ever recommend. But, if her metric of keeping something is “Does it bring you joy?” then I am following her method faithfully. It is amazing that just picking up an object can evoke a flood of memories. But, as a patriotic American, I have one object that not only gives me joy, but fills me with great honor. I received an American flag that was flown over the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery in honor of my retirement, along with letters from the chaplains of all the branches of the military thanking me for my service to our country.
I have never served in any branch of the military, but I spent over 30 years in a congregation with so many who served and continued to serve our nation in our armed services. I commissioned and decommissioned submarines. I gave invocations and benedictions at retirements. I wrote recommendations for the academies. I sat with soldiers before they deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they shared their wishes for memorial should they die in battle. I was there for those who returned with PTSD. I listened to those who still had nightmares of liberating Auschwitz in WWII and those who had scars from their time in Vietnam. I supported parents, spouses, and children during deployments. I mobilized care packages. And I stood at attention at Arlington National Cemetery and Quantico as the guns went off at their funerals. I was humbled and honored to take care of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, and their families who enabled them to serve at great personal sacrifice.
This Memorial Day, I remember those who died in battle, those who died of old age, and sadly, those who died at their own hand speaking to the alarming suicide rate of our veterans. This Memorial Day is a sacred day to remember the patriotism and sacrifice of those who fought for our flag and the values of freedom and justice for all whom it represents. This Memorial Day, I say Kaddish, as well, for every person who has served in this Covid-19 battle on the front lines of our hospitals and nursing homes, and died in that service, especially those who died because our nation failed to provide them with the protective equipment they needed to do battle safely – a failure that is unforgivable.
Each color of our flag has meaning: The white signifies purity and innocence. The red represents hardiness & valor. And the blue, signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. All together, the flag is the symbol of all that America has been and hopes to be – a land of equality, opportunity, and justice for all, without discrimination, and a place of welcome to those who see the flag as a place of freedom from persecution.
This Memorial Day, we are called to remember our obligations to one another. We are called to sacrifice and serve, no less than those who wear the uniform. And we are reminded to live our lives to honor those who gave theirs for us.