As Memorial Day approaches, members of Adler University’s Student Veterans Association are honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country, and reminding community members about the true meaning of the holiday.
Observed this year on Monday, May 28, Memorial Day is devoted to remembering those killed while serving in the United States military. Since 1775, more than 1.35 million men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces have died, and another 1.5 million have been wounded. These statistics do not include the more-than 40,000 military members who still remain missing in action (MIA) today.
Members of the veterans association are recognizing the nation’s servicemen and women by assembling a memorial Prisoner of War (POW) and MIA table in the Chicago Campus‘ Alfred Cafe. The display includes an array of items that each have a special significance to brothers and sisters in arms.
“The POW/MIA table is smaller than others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors,” a sign perched on the table says.
A white tablecloth represents the purity of military members’ response to their call to arms, and an empty chair signifies an unknown face — no specific soldier, sailor, airman or marine, but simply, “all who are not present.”
“The table, itself, is round to show that our concern for them is never-ending,” the explanation states. “The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A purple heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.”
The display also features:
- A single red rose reminding visitors of their families and loved ones;
- A red ribbon signifying the love of country that inspires veterans to answer their nation’s call;
- Petals for those who will never return home;
- A yellow candle and respective ribbon to show the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion in honor of those have not yet been accounted for;
- Slices of lemon to convey these military members’ bitter fates;
- Salt representing the tears of their families; and
- An upside-down wine glass symbolizing that these distinguished comrades cannot be with us to toast to Veterans Day honors.
Though abundant throughout the weekend, retail sales and discounts do not represent Memorial Day. Students encouraged University community members to be sensitive to the day’s significance throughout military culture.
“Despite (how the holiday has evolved) in American culture, it was established to honor and remember the fallen,” they said. “Many veterans may have lost friends in combat and this day is particularly important to them.”
Unlike November’s Veterans Day, Memorial Day is not a time to thank veterans for their service. Instead of acknowledging a veteran by saying, “Thank you for your service”, or “Happy Memorial Day”, association members urge U.S. citizens to share sentiments such as, “I hope you’re having a meaningful day.”
But these distinctions do not mean people aren’t allowed to shop or host a barbecue; as there are certainly ways to memorialize the fallen while enjoying the company of friends and family members.
“Grill some amazing steaks, and find the perfect mattress on sale, just don’t forget to raise a glass in honor of those servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice,” veterans association members said. “Enjoy the holiday, just be mindful of what we do and what we say on this day and how it might have an impact on the military/veteran culture.”
Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts in Psychology: Military Psychology program draws on our longstanding expertise in military cultural competency and commitment to social justice, producing psychology and mental health professionals with the specialized training to work effectively with active-duty military, veterans and their families.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user, Ryan McDonough.