Memorial Day has never just been about remembering the dead. In issuing the first Memorial Day order on May 5, 1868, Civil War General John Logan called on the nation to decorate the graves of soldiers and sailors who died in defense of their country -- but also to remember their surviving families:
"Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
Across the country, Americans have united to help the spouses and children of those who sacrificed their limbs and lives for the ongoing war on terror. Here are just three worthy causes to keep in mind after this weekend's parades and holiday barbeques are over:
1. The Freedom Alliance and Hannity Scholarship Fund. Nationally syndicated radio talk show host and FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity has created a scholarship fund for children of military men and women killed or wounded during the call of duty. He'll host a live Freedom Concert on July 11 at the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson, N.J. Proceeds will go to Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North's Freedom Alliance, which provides scholarships and charitable programs to members of the Armed Forces and dependents of those who have been killed on duty. The group has donated tens of thousands of dollars to parents, children and spouses of veterans, including those who served in Vietnam and Lebanon; delivered overseas care packages during Gulf War I; and donated memorial funds for families of sailors killed during the 2000 terrorist attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.
Contributions to the Hannity Scholarship Fund and/or Freedom Alliance can be sent to Freedom Alliance, 22570 Markey Court, Suite 240, Dulles, VA 20166; online at www.freedomalliance.org ; or by calling 1-800-329-5454. For more information on obtaining tickets to the July 11 Freedom Concert, call 1-732-928-1821.
2. The Fisher House. The Fisher House program is a private-public partnership that donates "comfort homes" on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers for relatives of military men and women hospitalized for illness, disease or injury. The Fisher House Foundation also administers scholarships for military children. Contributions can be sent to Fisher House Foundation, 1401 Rockville Pike, Ste 600, Rockville, MD 20852 or online at www.fisherhouse.org.
Donors who give $30 or more will receive a special Fisher House coin commemorating the dedication of the group's second house in support of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Landstuhl is the military's only major medical center in Europe and provides critical support for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
3. The United Warrior Survivor Foundation. UWSF is a non-profit group dedicated to spouses surviving Special Operations personnel killed in combat missions or training exercises since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The foundation offers scholarship grants to surviving spouses, along with educational counseling, financial guidance and investment planning. The group, founded by Navy SEAL Nicholas Rocha, also provides emotional support through professional bereavement counseling and support groups in each of the 50 states. "Most importantly," says the group's leadership, "we are committed to pray for these women and their families on a daily basis."
The inaugural fundraiser for the group was held on March 4, 2003 -- the one-year anniversary of Operation Anaconda, one of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of several members of the Special Forces, including Navy SEAL Neil Roberts. "This one was really personal," Rocha told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Neil was a SEAL's SEAL . . . I wanted to do more than send flowers after this guy died."
Donations can be sent to United Warrior Survivor Foundation, Operation: Frog Friends, P.O. Box 181097, Coronado, CA 92118-1097
Memorial Day poppies are hardy perennials. So, too, should our charity and gratitude be toward the "sacred charges" left behind by our fallen protectors in uniform. God bless them all.