I was performing a musical program on Kansas history last week to a group of 3rd graders. While talking about our state’s tumultuous birth in 1861 and the songs of the American Civil War, I came to the well known tune, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” I asked how many knew someone serving in the military away from home and was surprised at the large number of hands that went up.
To get the kids more into the song, I had them sing the “Hurrahs” as loudly as they could and I asked them to think about how happy they will be when their family members and friends return to them. Their bright-eyed 10-year-old faces were a joyful sight as they put their all into shouting the “Hurrahs” throughout “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”
The soldiers in those kids’ families were not able to look into their own children’s eyes and see the exuberance on display at that particular time. Some may have been in harm’s way at that very moment. All of them, by serving in the military had made the decision to risk their lives if called upon for their country. Whether they ever actually see a battlefield, they have made the commitment. They have said they are willing.
Between the Memorial Day cookouts and the beer-swigging and the trips to the lake, we owe at least a few moments of gratitude to the soldiers who say they are willing. And to the memories of those who have fallen.
Another musical product of the Civil War is the bugle call, “Taps.” Its lyrics are not commonly known, but worth remembering is this verse: “Go to sleep, peaceful sleep, may the soldier or sailor God keep, on the land or the deep, safe in sleep.”
Be thankful to those who sleep in our cemeteries this Memorial Day. And to those who sleep in barracks away from their own families.