Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I invite each reader to pause and thank God for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. You can read more about it here.

While Memorial Day was popular in the years around World War II, the traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans today have forgotten—or never knew--the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are ignored or neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

My mother grew up in a farming town of about 800 in Kansas. It’s your idyllic small prairie town, complete with the town square featuring a fountain in the middle and a hip-high wall around the perimeter. Memorial Day has historically been one of the biggest holidays there, featuring a full weekend of events, beginning with a picnic and concert in the square on Friday evening. The high school holds an annual Alumni Banquet honoring all graduates from all years. Individual classes make a special attempt to gather on the five and ten year anniversaries.

I took Mom back for her 65th high school reunion a few years ago. The celebration had changed very little from my childhood memories when we would visit Grandma over Memorial Day.

The Friday before Memorial Day, the town was filled with families coming back for the holiday. It seems that even today, adult children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren return home for this weekend. We took her 92-year-old former office mate to the picnic with us, and even after being gone for decades, Mom still recognized a lot of people. On Saturday the town took on a festive atmosphere as people wandered around, visiting with one another. Throughout the town in cafes and meeting rooms, classes gathered for their alumni luncheons. Mom’s class of about 18 (including spouses) met in a tiny lunchroom and dined on sandwiches made with white bread, potato salad, and apple pie.

On Saturday evening, the high school gymnasium was turned into banquet hall, with a table for each graduating class represented. Mom’s class had two tables. Some of the younger classes had a whole section of tables. Refreshments at the “banquet” consisted of homemade finger foods, much to the dismay of those who remembered when they had been served “real food.”

On Sunday we were invited to the home of friends for a picnic. Three generations of extended family gathered and welcomed the Californians. I was a little disappointed in the food. Just like here, much of it was store-bought rather than homemade. But the fellowship was sweet and we enjoyed the day.

On Monday, bright and early, we joined the entire town at the cemetery. Everyone brought flowers to decorate the graves of just about everyone they knew—relatives, friends, neighbors. The VFW had a color guard, lots of speeches, and 21 gun salute honoring the war dead. The grave of very veteran boasted an American flag and the Masons had also decorated the graves of all of their members (just about everyone, it seemed).

Everyone should experience a small town Memorial Day. It will remind you to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom. And even those who served.

God bless our veterans and those now serving throughout the world.

Labels: ,

2 comment(s):

In my own mind, Memorial Day also honors the soldiers who did not die, but did serve, and especially the soldiers who sacrificed their health and limbs. And I honor the wives, children and parents left behind.

By Blogger P.S. an after-thought, at 6:14 AM  

PS, I agree. Especially in these times, we need to honor all who have served and are serving.

By Blogger Pat, at 10:23 PM  

Post a comment

<< Home