Fort Smith National Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas – photo by Dean Hesse
I took a research trip last May through multiple states from Georgia to Missouri and traced my ancestors through cemetery after cemetery. My maternal and paternal lineage fought in the Civil War on both sides. I came from many adventurous and hearty Europeans: Carvers, Redmons, Tharps, Whitlocks, Shavers, and Tindells. They came to a new land seeking religious freedom and economic prosperity. It took many generations to achieve mediocre success. They persevered against the odds of poverty and despair.
I think of them as I work for social justice and against the blight in my community, South DeKalb County. When I dance at the Decatur Arts Festival, or any venue as a Dancing Flower for Peace, I am aware of who I represent. Emulating my forefathers and foremothers, I consider myself a warrior for peace. The responsibility of maintaining peace, working for equitable solutions, and recognizing the need for a strong defense to protect my family, my neighborhood, and my country confuses some of my friends. It makes sense to me.
If you were in life-threatening danger, I would put my life on the line for you, not because I am a hero, but because the blood in my veins requires it. The prepetuation of our species requires it. Democracy requires it. My ancestors require it.
On Memorial Day I remember all the people who died to protect our nation, and I thank those who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Force.