Memorial Day 2010

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend related to Memorial Day.  Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m missing something, but it bothers me a little bit.  What first brought it to my attention I don’t know.  Maybe I was feeling down, morose, whatever.  But I suddenly recalled that for last year, I have no recollection of Veterans or others offering the traditional poppy.  Trying to think back, I have no recollection of such offerings for the last few years, actually.

Now my wife will be the first to tell you I have the disease called CRS (Can’t Remember S**t) and that may well be the case here.

Whatever, it was enough to make me do a little bit of searching online.  When I say “a little bit” I mean just that.  I didn’t have to look far to see that I wasn’t the only one that had noticed the decline in meaning for Memorial Day.

It appears that more and more Memorial Day is just another three day holiday.  People seem to have forgotten what it signified.  Some might say it’s to honor our Veterans, and to some extent that’s true, but the true intent of Memorial Day was originally to honor those who gave their lives for our country.  Many that regret this loss of knowledge blame the government, and I can see how they have a point.  Originally May 30th was set aside as Memorial Day to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  As a holiday tied to a specific date, that worked, but in the desire to make it more convenient as a federal holiday, the date was moved to the last Monday in May, thus ensuring it would always be a three day holiday.  That eventually just made it a long weekend to be enjoyed.  For a long time people did remember and honor our Dead that day, but now more and more it’s nothing more than a welcome long weekend for BBQs and getting into the mood for summer.  And this year…here it is two days before the long weekend and I’ve seen nothing at all about Memorial Day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can’t say that I don’t see it that way as well.  I know I’ve never gone to the cemetery and paid my respects to the Veterans there just because it was Memorial Day.  But I have always been aware what Memorial Day stood for, and every time I saw a poppy, I remembered.  As a photographer, I’ve naturally visited cemeteries to take pictures and any time I see the grave of a Veteran, I pay my respects.  Memorial Day, though, was special:  All day long I’d see the poppies and know what they signified.  All day long I would be reminded of their sacrifice and was grateful.

I just don’t seem to see that happening any more, and I regret it’s passing.  However, I can at least use my blog to write about it and so hopefully continue the respect our Dead deserve a little longer.  Until I die, I am grateful for their sacrifice even if I am too shy to go up to a Veteran and thank him.  I shall continue to quietly thank them when I see their graves, their license plates, their hats, their vests, their uniforms.  They will never know my respect and appreciation, probably, and I fear that in years to come it’s going to seem like fewer and fewer acknowledge or even care about their sacrifices, the buddies they lost, the memories they carry, the horrors they still deal with…in short, the burdens of being a Veteran.

Below I provide three links as a mark of respect, honor, and acknowledgment.  One is famous, two not quite so famous, and the fourth is my own work.  Please, visit them in order and please, please take a moment this weekend and on Memorial Day to give thanks for their sacrifices.

In Flanders Field

We Shall Keep the Faith

In Flanders Field: America’s Answer

Whom the Poppies Honor

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5 Responses to “Memorial Day 2010”

  1. Jerry Squires Says:

    You are right. I think there are a majority – or a loud minority, that has forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day. That is tendered by the media. They advertise for the ‘outing on the holiday’ to intrigue us to ‘buy more stuff’. It is American business’s conspiracy to make any semblance of a holiday into a commercial extravaganza.

    But….

    Thanks to my good wife, I see the many who quietly and somberly go to the cemeteries, clean and polish the graves – leaving them with colorful flowers and goodies. A tribute to their past on loved one. Many cemeteries place flags at the graves of solders. Cemetery after Cemetery… there are the loved ones looking after their kindred dead.
    There are those that mindlessly play on this sacred day, but there are also, many who respect and reverence it.
    And there is always room, if the meaning was overlooked, to begin this Memorial Day… to remember.

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  2. Bill Says:

    Well, Memorial Day came and went.

    Obama insulted the nation and our dead as far as I’m concerned by not himself taking on the honor of laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    There were plenty of local activities related to honoring our dead veterans, so it’s not a totally forgotten day of respect, which I already knew.

    But nothing in the stores other than some minor Memorial Day BBQ notices. That could have been due to our weather, though, abnormally wet and cool for the weeks leading up, the days of, and the days after.

    There was only one place in the Caldwell-Nampa area, manned by an old veteran, that offered poppies for donations.

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  3. Jerry Squires Says:

    Memorial Day – while visiting family resting sites, I found myself standing over the grave of a valiant sergeant who lay at rest. My daughter’s boyfriend, who served in the military stood next to me. The grave marker was covered by mud from the surrounding ground. The marker sat just below the ground level. Amy water and silt from the surrounding area flowed down on to the memorial. The young man next to me looked down at the site – then quietly requested that we remove the dirt and silt from the soldiers marker. My younger daughter fetched water and a brush, and the two of them reverently and respectfully cleaned the brass plaque. I believe the young man stood up – straightened himself – and saluted
    What an example of the true meaning of Memorial Day. The comradery of two soldiers from two different times – one has passed, the other recognizing and respecting the others service.
    It was a humbling Memorial Day.

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  4. Poetryqn Says:

    Poppies (and flags) are still going strong in my neck of the woods on the East Coast. Ever since September 11th, people of ALL political backgrounds have flown the flag to show our support of those serving even if they argue against sending them anywhere. In my opinion, too many soldiers bear the brunt of public outrage for unpopular wars. But, while we’re talking poppies and respect, please, please take a moment to ask your representatives to take better care of our returning military. With the improvements in trauma care, many soldiers are surviving life threateing injuries only to return to the States unable to work, or even function in society. If we’re going to ask people to fight, let’s please extend ourselves to see that the living veterans receive the services they need.
    And now I’ll get off my soapbox. Good wishes to all. I am definitely not trying to start an argument, just point out something that’s been bothering me for sometime.

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  5. Bill Says:

    Very good point, Lass. Especially in this time of economic privation and funding cuts, taking care of our returning military should be exempt from such cuts until the very end.

    I’m glad to hear poppies and flags are still running strong there. Ironically, after my original post, while I still saw no poppies myself, I was told about one old veteran the next town over that was offering them at one store. Also, there were a surprising number of small flags in a couple cemeteries that I drove by that weekend. So, maybe the sentiment isn’t lost, just the visibility. That’s not so good either, but I’d rather the visibility were lost than the sentiment.

    I don’t know what it’s worth, but at the same time I saw those flags in the cemeteries, I also noticed they seemed (and I have NO statistical data or anything to back this up so it may simply be my moodiness that day) to be mostly in the bigger, more visible cemeteries. It could also just be that those that have family in the smaller cemeteries are themselves no longer able to visit and place their flags. I know there are scout projects to place and remove flags and such like, but that always seems to be at the larger cemeteries. The fact that such cemeteries are also more visible certainly helps keep the day’s purpose visible.

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