I was a lucky kid, in that I got to spend lots of time with my grandparents and have lots of memories of them. One memory that is still vivid as an adult years later is the Decoration Day ritual.
I remember big black ants climbing all over my Grandma’s peonies. She planted lots of flowers and had what I would call a cutting garden, but I only remember peonies being ready for Decoration Day. The arrival of the ants was a sign that she would soon be cutting the flowers and our family would make the annual pilgrimage to the cemetery for Decoration Day.
As an adult I don’t remember whose graves we took flowers too. On that side of my family there were not many who served in the arm forces so suspect we just put flowers on assorted family member’s graves irrespective of if they passed away in service.
Grandma would create flower arrangements that were put in jars that had been saved for just that purpose from the goods we bought at the grocery. We would pile in to Grandpa’s oversized car, Grandpa, Grandma and whoever in the family had come for the day. I don’t remember much about the trip, if it was long or short. I could not tell you if we stopped at more than one cemetery, but I can clearly remember the jars filled with water and full of flowers to be delivered to honor loved ones. I can see the sloshing of the water and the rearranging of the flowers that my Grandma had so carefully selected with each bump and turn in the road. It was a moment of honoring those who were not there any longer. It was time for family. It was a passing of another season.
I still think of the day as Decoration Day, even though in 1971 Memorial Day became a federal holiday. I remember the rituals that allowed me to spend time with my Grandparents. I think of all the servicemen and women who gave their lives for this wonderful broken country. I honor and thank them and their families for their sacrifice. I hope we do them justice in how we live our lives.
Today is the day we celebrate Memorial Day in the US. I am old enough to remember when Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30th. Buddy Poppys were sold and everyone had one. My hometown had a parade then ended with the local veteran’s group at the cemetery with a 21 gun salute for the military who had died.
At some point the US government thought it was more important to have a three-day holiday than to honor our military who died in service. Time has marched on. We now have an all volunteer army. We say we support our troops, but talk is cheap. Our military force is so much smaller, and many of the citizens no long have a connection to our military. Most of us don’t have a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, father, mother cousin, sweetheart or neighbor who is currently serving or could be in harms way. When I was in high school boys worried about being sent to Vietnam. Everyone seemed to know someone who was affected by the war. Of the thousands who have died and been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t personally know a single family that has been affected in that way. This personal distance and moving the holiday to a more convenient Monday has cause a loss of the meaning of Memorial Day.
Maybe it is time for this holiday to be returned back to May 30 and force us all to think about why this holiday exists. It is not a three-day holiday. It is more than a day off of work. Godspeed and thanks to all those who have given their lives in service of our country.
It was a coincidence that our Netflix DVD that arrived on Friday had a military theme. We put “Taking Chance” in our que a long time ago. When it arrived neither my husband and I could not remember who told us about the film or which one of us reserved it. Other than the sticker we had no idea what it was about.
It sat around for three days and tonight we finally watched it. It is the story of returning a fallen solider in Iraq to his family in Wyoming. It was very eye-opening as I had never thought about the process. It was very moving as you saw how much reverence each person in the military took their task of preparing the body to return the Marine home. It was moving in seeing how the many non-military had such respect and paid honor to the soldier for his sacrifice.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Tonight I will not only think of the service men and women who are serving in harm’s way, the military folks who we have lost, but also the unsung heroes in some basement or morgue that prepare the fallen for return to their final resting place.
In 1971 the US government passed the National Holiday Act for the purpose of creating 3 day holidays. In that process many of our holidays may have lost their meaning. Today many folks are celebrating a day off of work, but are they taking a minute to reflect on why this is a holiday?
Memorial Day began just after the Civil War, to honor those who had fallen. It was originally called Decoration Day, and was a day for families to honor lost military, both Union and Confederate. Families decorated the graves of soldier’s with flowers that were in bloom. Until 1971 this holiday was May 30th every year.
My Grandma called it Decoration Day. She would gather peonies, irises and other flowers from her garden into wonderful bouquets. A trek would be taken to the local cemetery where the bouquets were placed on graves of family members who had gone before.
The rural town where I lived had an annual Memorial Day parade, on May 30th, whatever day of the week that fell on. I am no longer sure how big the parade was but know that it had both the junior and high school bands playing, even though school had been dismissed for the summer. The parade marched down Main street and up to the cemetery where there was a color guard and a ceremony that honored fallen military. It was a holiday tradition that we attended the parade and the ceremony.
I no longer live near a family cemetery, nor does my local town have a parade. In honor of memorial day I plan to look at ancestors in my family tree who have served the US military and take some time today to learn more about them, the battles they fought in and how they were part of history.
A new generation of soldiers are giving their lives in honor of their country and our freedoms. I hope that all of us will take a minute to reflect on the holiday and maybe take a minute or two to Google Memorial Day and find out a little more history about our national holiday. It should be much more than a day off of work.