Memorial Day Without Borders


Memorial Day is a day where we all pause and remember those who have fought for their country. It’s the moment where regardless of where we stand in our opinions of war, gratitude and reverence are paid to those who gave up their lives when called to serve.

While Memorial Day is filled with American flags in my corner of the world, I can’t help but extend my gratitude beyond the borders of my country.  Throughout my travels I’ve come across memorials to people who fought for what they believed was right and were more than willing to lay down their lives for those beliefs.  When the world was at war or governments oppressed their citizens, these brave soldiers and civilians stood up to protect the sacred right of freedom. As my thoughts are with American soldiers who fought gallantly (like my grandfather), I am also remembering brave souls worldwide.  My sincere thanks goes to all who fought with so much courage.

The photographs below come from places that have touched me deeply as they are moving tributes to those who gave up everything in the hope that others could be free.

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Women all over the world lent a helping hand to the war effort and they deserve a huge thank you for stepping up and standing strong.  In London, a large monument along Whitehall commemorates the service of women in World War II.

The Women of WWII Monument on Whitehall, London. Photo by: c.b.w.

As Czechoslovakia became a battleground between democracy and communism, young citizens gathered in droves to defend their freedom.  And they did so knowing full well they may never return home.

This plaque appears on the enclosure wall of Prague Castle. Photo by: c.b.w.

I’ll never forget my walk through Wenceslas Square in Prague.  As the main site of the Prague Spring protests, thousands of people filled this square and risked their lives in the process.  Oppressed by an invasion and subsequently brutal communist regime, basic freedoms were denied and human rights repeatedly violated.  These strong individuals stood together even as the tanks rolled in and armed soldiers took aim.

Memorials commemorating those who died in protest of the oppressive occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Photo by: c.b.w.

Sometimes memorials are unintentional, as is the case of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.  No monuments exist for those who so bravely filled the square in protest of corruption of the Communist government and cried for their voices to be heard.  The protests of 1989 are remembered by those who watched them unfold, but forcibly forgotten by a government that opened fire on innocent people. The photograph below is the People’s Heroes Monument meant to commemorate those who fought in China’s civil war on the communist side, but after 1989 it has inadvertently come to represent something quite different.  The monument is roped off so people can’t get close enough to see the bullet holes still lodged in the stone.  For those who know where to look, the ropes can’t hide the damage.

People’s Heroes Monument, Tiananmen Square, China. Photo by: c.b.w.

May we never forget those who gave up everything in the name of freedom and the preservation of basic human rights.

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c.b. 2012