Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Memorial Day – Is this just an excuse for another three day weekend? Is it just another holiday moved to a Monday to make it more convenient? Seems like it is only another “special” weekend for sales events as flyers are delivered to my mailbox and “Special Memorial Day Blowout” ads flood my inbox. It is time off work so folks can head to the beach, the golf course, or the backyard BBQ pit. But is that all it’s for?
In 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day from the designated day of May 30, to the last Monday in May. That would be fine if people really remembered what the holiday signifies, but I am afraid that for the majority it is just another three day weekend. At the store today, the check-out clerk asked if we had plans for Monday. I simply said, “I plan to sleep in, how about you?” She replied, “I have to work in the morning, but I will get off early and then head home and get some sleep.” When she asked me, I wish I had added, “I also plan to spend some of the time reflecting on the meaning of the day and remembering the sacrifices of men and women throughout our nation’s history who ensured our freedom.” But I didn’t.

When I was a child, every Memorial Day my folks took all of us kids to visit the local cemeteries and put fresh flowers and/or flags on the graves of our relatives. They also called it Decoration Day. We always walked around and found markers of those who died in war. It was a special day of remembrance back then. When I was a little boy, it was only a few short years since the end of WWII. I was born just three days before the first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945 and six days before the second one was dropped on August 9, 1945. Then, just five years later, we were in the Korean War. The pain was still raw.
I hope all of you who are reading this take some time to remember all the men and women who paid and are paying even today, the ultimate price while in the service of their country. We should also remember the soldiers of our allied countries who bravely fought and died. We owe each of these men and women so much for the freedoms we have today. I pray for the families they have left behind. For this Memorial Day, like each Memorial Day, the flag in front of our home flies at half mast until noon, as prescribed by the proper flag etiquette for the day.
No matter how we may lean politically, we must never forget the sacrifice so many men and woman paid in answering the call to serve and for honoring their commitment to our country. Each left behind someone who loved them – mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousins, fiancée, boyfriend, girlfriend, classmates, or comrades in arms. Friday I attended a Memorial Day service put on by my grandson’s school, Hopewell Middle School. It was an excellent program of remembrance. The High School Junior ROTC color guard posted the colors and a former Hopewell student sang our national anthem as beautifully sung as I have ever heard it and it brought tears to my eyes. A young lady beautifully played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, accompanied by one of the teachers on the keyboard. There was a slide show tribute to our men and women in uniform dating back to the beginning of our country. They then recognized all veterans present and made a very special presentation to the parents of four fallen soldiers – three gold star mothers and one father. It was a moving experience. Then the students presented each veteran present with a personally made card of thanks and brought each of us a drink and piece of cake. I was pleased to see the school recognize the importance of the holiday and teaching their students to honor and respect what those who have gone before them have done.
Here are two special poems and a few powerful photos that capture the meaning of the day.

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought ... how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilot's planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No ... Freedom is not Free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,And felt a sudden chill;
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend;
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands ...
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington ...
No ... Freedom is not Free!
Author unknown


***************************************************************************Mary McHugh mourns her slain fiancé, Sgt. James Regan, a US Army Ranger killed in Iraq, at Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2007.

If you Google "James John Regan," you will be able to read much about this young man.

This photograph by John Moore (Getty Images) won 1st place for Feature Photos in the 2007 Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Contest.


***********************************************************

Choking back tears, 8-year old Christian Golczynski accepted the flag from his father's casket. Photographer Aaron Thompson described this moment as "the most emotionally moving event I may have ever witnessed and may ever witness in my life." (The Daily News Journal)
When asked about his dad by ABC News' Chris Cuomo, Christian said, "He was a hero. He helped our country."
Read the story behind this picture here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3140316


TAPS

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

- Taps -

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

John,
I enjoy all your entries but this one in particular was great. Informative and moving and a wonderful tribute to all those in uniform and all those who went before them. Thank you for your dedicated service.

Loren

materialmoose said...

John
what a wonderful post today!! Thank you! Also THANK YOU AND THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE SERVED AND THOSE THAT ARE SERVING!!

GOD BLESS

Grateful said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder - I too was raised visiting cemetery's and decorating my relatives graves. I wouldn't dream of doing anything else on Memorial Day. My grandson and I actually visited five different cemeteries over the weekend - there is so much history there as well as sacrifice.
Again - thanks for a very moving post.

ann said...

Thank you John, This is very dear to my heart.

Anonymous said...

Great post. None of my grandparents were in the military, so when I was growing up, Memorial Day was just another 3 day weekend. As I've gotten older, I've made it a point to spend some time of the day reflecting on the meaning. I agree, no matter what your politics, take some time to thank those living and dead who make the sacrifice. Mary "Bv" from your old workplace

Ivan Seligman said...

By the time I got to the bottom of this day's blog, I had tears down my cheeks. Tears of gratitude and admiration for those whose lives wre cut short; never again to grow share precious moments with families, children and lovers.

Thank you for reminding us of the strength, bravery and the memory of those who gave their lives that we may have freedom.

For so many, this holiday will always be holy; a sacred reminder of now silent heroes whose brief lives and sacrifices shall never be forgotten.

GardenSERF said...

The photos were powerful.