Former President William Howard Taft was part of a special idea to celebrate Memorial Day during the First World War. Americans were asked to honor a lost loved one by saving the life of a war victim.
The United States had yet to enter the war, but news of the suffering in Europe had reached our shores. Not only were people dying from bullets, but also from hunger.
A letter signed by Taft and others was sent to churches to rally donations to feed Europe's hungry. A copy was printed in the New York Times and read "America is the one great land of peace, prosperity and wealth. All look here for sympathy and help...Let every man, woman, and even child, who can understand something of the appalling misery make a gift that will mean real sympathy and provide real help."
This was part of America’s outpouring of support to feed and clothe victims of the First World War. This humanitarian tradition of helping those afflicted by war has continued ever since.
What better way to honor someone's legacy on Memorial Day than to save a life. Soldiers are heroic in their service, saving the lives of others. This is what we honor on Memorial Day. Saving a life in their name continues that heroic legacy.
During the Second World War, the Allied Invasion of Europe led to liberation and freedom for millions. The D-Day invasion 75 years ago on June 6, saved the continent from Nazi German occupation. So many Americans and allies lost their lives in that invasion.
When my father Vincent and his Army Engineers unit was on Omaha Beach to remove mines he could see hundreds of backpacks stacked up of soldiers who were killed or wounded in the landings. He wrote: “Walking among those packs gives an eerie feeling and you cannot help but wonder what happened there on June 6, and how our soldiers overcame the enemy strongholds and moved inland.” They all deserve to be remembered for their heroism. The American and Allied forces not only liberated Europe from the ruthless oppressors, but also brought humanitarian aid to the poor and hungry. Soldiers witnessed scenes of child hunger and gave them lifesaving food.
Today there is suffering of millions of people from wars all over the globe. Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and other nations are facing extreme conflict.
Children are suffering the most. Yet, many of the children in these war zones can still be saved if people, even those far away, take action.
A new report from Save the Children says: “The major causes of child mortality in conflict settings are largely preventable and treatable: pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, malaria and measles. These illnesses claim more children’s lives because the health care and nutritious food that could save them is unavailable or out of reach due to insecurity.”
The international community can do more to ensure humanitarian aid is funded and reaches those in desperate need.
As this Memorial Day arrives and we remember our loved ones, also think of those at risk in ongoing wars. We can still do something to save war victims, especially children, by supporting charities like Save the Children, the World Food Program, Mercy Corps, Edesia, and Catholic Relief Services.
On Memorial Day as you remember and honor a life, you can also save one.