Monday, May 29, 2023

A Seat at the Table on Memorial Day


A local restaurant posted this photo.

This weekend we wanted to honor the true reason behind Memorial Day. As you enter our restaurant, you will notice a Missing Man table, also known as a Fallen Comrade table. This memorial that is set up in military dining facilities in honor of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members serves as the focal point of ceremonial remembrance. We wanted to honor these service members and say Thank You for their ultimate sacrifice.

A member of the community posted a response, pointing out gently that those who gave their lives for our country held many different faiths, and so a copy of a Christian New Testament was not representative of who they were and what they believed. She respectfully asked that they remove it.

The restaurant owner responded in a way that showed they understood the request.

That’s where I thought the story would end. It gave me a good feeling about Howard County.

Then the comments came. The posters attacked the request, the person who made the request, and any who agreed with her. Words that were used: 
  • nitpicking
  • whining
  • negative crap
  • bitch and whine
  • professional haters
Yet the original comment was none of these things. It was a gentle request to honor the fallen for who they were. They were not all Christian. A Christian Holy Book is not a default Book of Faith for All. This thought is neither an attack on religious faith nor a desecration of the memory of those who died in service to our country. It is an affirmation of the principles upon which our country was founded. 

Did you know that 7,000 American Jews died in combat in World War II? Is their memory honored by a Christian Bible? Why would we have a right to demand to put one in a memorial to the fallen? 

If a Book of Faith is deemed to be so necessary by some, how about a Koran? Certainly American Muslims have died in service to their country.

Photo credit Platon Antoniu 

Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Spc. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, 2008. Spurred by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Khan, a Muslim, enlisted immediately after graduating from high school in 2005 and was sent to Iraq in July 2006. He was killed a year later.

How do you think the people who attacked the commenter would respond to encountering every Missing Man table set with a Quran? Or a Torah? Do you think they would defend it as a “symbol of religious faith”?

I wonder.

I did some research on this last night and I learned something that might be helpful. The Bible you often see on a Missing Man table has not always been there.

“Actually, the original tradition of the table was started by the River Rats, the group of Vietnam combat pilots who began this tradition in 1967, did NOT include a Bible, and neither does the American Legion’s version, which sticks to the original tradition. The Bible wasn’t added until over three decades later, when the VFW Ladies Auxiliary published a new version in a 1999 issue of their magazine that added a Bible. So, if you want to honor the original tradition, it would NOT have a Bible.” - - Chris Rodda, Research Director, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

If you wanted to honor the original tradition, it would NOT have a Bible.

The United States Military recognizes over 100 religious faiths but it promotes none of them. It is not a faith-based organization. This is because our country was founded on principles of religious freedom.  That means you have the freedom to practice and honor your faith privately, in your home, and publicly, such as in places of worship. It means you have the freedom to discuss and defend your faith with others. It also means you have the right to choose no religion at all. 

It does NOT mean the freedom of members of the dominant religious culture to impose their Holy Book as the default in public places.

That, my friends, is actually un-American. And it is not the way to honor those who gave their lives to protect our peace.

I’ve since heard that the restaurant owner took that gentle request to heart. It made them stop and think. Just imagine a Howard County where others were that thoughtful and caring.

I wish I could.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.