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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

Another Memorial Day is approaching. A lot of folks have forgotten the reason that they are getting Monday off from work and school. It’s origins like in the post Civil War South when some Southern ladies wanted to remember their menfolk who had died in that great American tragedy. In an effort to reunite the states the holiday became recognized nation-wide, honoring all the soldiers who had died in that war. Over time many communities extended the commemorating to include all Americans who have passed away. In some places it is known as Decoration Day. My cousin has told me that Memorial Day in the Ozarks, where our family is from, is a big event. People there take it seriously.

Until his death my Uncle Dick put flowers on all the family graves in Dade County, MO. Our family has been in that neck of the woods since before the Civil War so there are plenty of deceased to honor. He took flowers to about 70 graves including several in a long forgotten cemetery in the woods. He crawled through barbed wire fences and walked through fields to get to some of the cemeteries. Some of those graves will probably never see flowers again since Uncle Dick couldn’t get the town interested in tending the one in the woods.

I’ve got a cousin in Vancouver, WA who tends the graves of our family there. Each year he washes the graves and places flowers on each one. He’s no Spring chicken now and sick this year so just getting the flowers there will be a struggle. Maybe one of his boys will step up, but youngsters today don’t seem to care unless they’ve got a friend in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since I can’t take flowers to my father’s grave in MO we have a trip to the Tahoma National Cemetery tomorrow. I’m taking flowers to my best friend’s father and brother. Harley Beard was the pilot of the Liberator over Germany during WWII. After the war, when he’d gone to work for the Boeing Company as a test pilot, he became friends with some of those German pilots he fought against. His sons both served as pilots in Vietnam, one in the Air Force and Neal in the Army flying helicopters. Neal died a year ago and a Huey did a fly-over while the pastor said prayers and the VFW lauded him.

The Civil War is long since gone from our collective consciousness, at least in the North, and even Vietnam is just so much history to the young ones. I hope that at the very least Americans will think of the sort of love and sense of duty that causes young men and women to go into harm’s way. Many, too many, don’t come home and whether or not we agree with the conflicts they die for we ought to be moved by their willingness to serve. One of these days, when I don't have to be back to work on Tuesday, we'll go to Greenfield, MO for Memorial Day. I'll put a flag on Daddy's grave, along with flowers and pour a little Scotch. I think he'd like that.


Kim Thompson said...

This is a really good post, Stephanie. I love your vision of visiting your dad's grave.

We have our flag flying on the porch. We are the only ones on our whole street with a flag. I think that's a little sad.

Lorraine Hart said...

As always Stephanie, you teach me something new about American History...thank you.

I raise my cuppa with your glass. xo