Sunday, May 24, 2009
Tanya Writes About Memorial Day...and our fallen heros
Some years ago, I happened to be in Europe on my post-college graduation "grand tour" when I saw it, a cemetery/battlefield dedicated to fallen American soldiers. White white crosses went on forever and ever. My heart ached and tugged with all those emotions we writers are supposed to include in our stuff. Because it was Memorial Day and the graves fluttered with endless little American flags.
Since then, I try to get to our local cemetery at this time every year. I don't know anybody asleep there, but a thousand full-size flags dedicated to local veterans
line the roads of the cemetery, and almost every grave is decorated. I try to find the tombstone of a veteran that isn't and lay some home-grown flowers on him. A top memory is getting to help raise those flags with my daughter's Girl Scout troop some years ago. It's quite a sight, seeing the flags blow in the ocean winds of our community.
But as a little girl, when Memorial Day was actually celebrated on May 30 no matter the day of the week, we mostly picnicked and had fun. Hordes of relatives gathered at the lake for a one-day barbecue. This year, even with the three-day-weekend now, we're staying close to home. That's good though, for I'll be able to make it to the cemetery and find another forgotten vet.
In 1868, a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives serving America was proclaimed by General John A. Logan to honor soldiers and sailors lost in the Civil War. On May 30, flowers were placed on their graves at Arlington Cemetery, and the custom spread on as "Decoration Day" every year.
Southern states apparently refused to recognize the day and honored their dead separately until after World War 1 when the holiday was changed to include all of America's fallen from any war.
(It is said a celebration in 1866 in Waterloo, NY, commemorating Northern troops fallen in the Civil War may have preceded the first "Decoration Day.")
Until 1971, Memorial Day was always observed on May 30...then Congress passed the National Holiday Act establishing three-day weekends for federal workers. Rather than remain a day to recognize and honor those "who gave all," the day has become the harbinger of summer, a three-day barrage of special retail sales and coupons. Camp outs and higher gas prices. A time of picnics and beer and beaches.
However you spend the day, let's not forget those men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And for those still on the fields of war, let's pray God brings them safely home again.
All gave some...but some gave all.