A Masonic View on Memorial Day
Many Freemasons know that Memorial Day has its traditional origins in Waterloo, NY; attributed to Union General John Logan in 1866, and memorialized by President Lyndon Johnson a century later (see here). General Logan, an Illinois Freemason, proclaimed a day of remembrance for those who gave their lives in service to their country.
Memorial Day means many things to many different people. For some, it is the start of the summer season and sales on TVs and microwaves. For others, it is a day of sadness, remembering comrades in arms that gave their lives while wearing the uniform of his or her service. For most, Memorial Day comes and goes as a Federal holiday where schools, banks, and some businesses close, with the smell of BBQ wafting through the air of many suburban towns.
For those Freemasons who also wore a uniform of the Armed Forces, it can also mean many of these things, and even a few others. There exists much synchronicity between Freemasonry and the Military. There were also many famous service members who were members of the Craft. The Craft does seem, at least from the perspective of history, to attract people who extend the lessons learned in the Three Degrees to their lives in service to their country.
We know about all the famous Freemasons that served their country. General of the Armies and Brother George Washington, General and Brother James Doolittle, Admiral and Brother John Paul Jones, Brother Audie Murphy, and a host of others. Countless less-famous men also served the United States throughout war and peacetime, offering their lives in service to their Nation.
The military, in general, teaches discipline and honor. Discipline serves as the fundamental mortar or cement which unites a band of people in uniform into a cohesive force, capable of following orders and completing objectives. Honor is that inherent desire to fulfill an obligation, or to hold an ideal or belief in high esteem. Honor comes from believing in and fulfilling service to something greater than yourself. Discipline comes from learning to place the needs of your group or unit above your own, and following orders that serve a greater purpose.
Sound familiar? Freemasonry also espouses honor and discipline, but in reverse practice. The degrees teach one to honor himself, his family, and his community. That sense of higher regard extending to others will naturally come from subduing his passions, and instill people with a greater sense of duty towards his Brethren, his family, and his community.
Discipline also stems from subduing passions, to bring order to one's life and practice, and to remove insignificant aspects of our person and make us more harmonious beings. Bringing order to one's life engenders a belief to keep one's obligations, perform his responsibilities, and to place the welfare of one's charges above his own.
In my travels as a Mason, I have noticed that Freemasonry attracts people who served, or currently serve, their Nation. I can't speak for everyone (only for myself), but the camaraderie and sense of belonging I see in Lodge is certainly similar to the sense of belonging I felt while serving in the United States Army. The similarities in Brotherhood within both are unmistakable: one comes from an unshakable bond stemming from traveling the same road as all those before through the Degrees in Masonry; the other from an unwavering bond of love and affection in serving with your unit, your Brothers and Sisters-in-arms, and too often seeing them leave this mortal plane while serving this Nation that we all love.
That is what Memorial Day is all about. Not the appliance sales, neighborhood BBQs, the day off from work, or the impromptu fireworks display. It is about remembering those that chose to give their lives in service of a higher purpose, for something much greater than themselves, in hopes of leaving a better world than the one they left. I call it a choice because the virtue of wearing a uniform means that you already made that choice to give your life to your country, and for many in our Nation's history, the bill came due.
Remember the fallen. Honor the fallen. In your actions, your words, and your deeds. Be the type of citizen and human being that makes them proud to have given their lives in service of an ideal. Have Faith knowing that they are enjoying a much richer existence as a result of life well lived, and well given. Hope that they found that existence that our souls yearn for; one much closer to our Creator. And honor the Charity, or that ultimate love for one's fellow man (or woman) in dying for a cause much greater than one person.
~~ FDTL ~~