Hello Friends. This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Officially, Monday is the actual holiday, being the last Monday of the month (of May). Most people know it’s a day of remembrance for our fallen and deceased soldiers. Most also know it as the unofficial start of summer. Soon school will be out and all your munchkins will be home, every day, all day, seven days a week. From that point on, you will all be looking forward to Labor Day which is traditionally the end of summer. In the weeks to come, there will be fireworks to celebrate Independence Day (or Canada Day for our friends across the bridge or to the north). There will be bar-b-ques with all the trimmings. Race fans will veg in front of the television as they watch a bunch of people drive several times in a circle totaling 500 miles, at the Indy 500. Some will celebrate by getting so drunk they won’t remember what happened or why they now have that splitting headache (as long as they aren’t driving, they can pickle themselves silly for all I care).
I wonder sometimes, how many people actually know what the day is for or how it began. It originally began as Decoration Day after the Civil War. The ‘decoration’ is literal as the purpose was to decorate the graves of the fallen men (and now, women). Typically with flowers. Different locations had different times of the month for observing the day but the purpose was the same.. Decorating the graves (and paying respects). No one quite knows for certain when or where the first one was though there are many claims to that fame (if you will). In 1967, Congress designated the final Monday in May to be the common holiday. It is held in May, so I’ve read, because that’s when flowers are at their peak. That depends on where you are.. Mine have barely started but in a couple weeks it’ll be an explosion of color. The name Decoration Day has been lost to time but I can still remember my grandparents calling it that.
As a kid, it was simply a day off from school and the time my parents decided to invite everyone over for barbque. That was one of the few days that dad was the meat chef (and he burned everything). Dad wasn’t a grill master.. Not with a charcoal grill anyway. Around here, the weather was usually spring-like though there are years, I don’t think it made it out of the 40s (just thought I’d toss that in here).
I’ve seen 49 of these holidays (including this one) and until now, I didn’t know exactly what the original intent was of Decoration Day. That is, how it was supposed to be observed. Being a TV junkie as a kid, I always thought it was for the appliance stores (remember those?) to have their crazy blowout sales and also for the local big name furniture stores to have their quarter annual going out of business sale (Every thing MUST GO!). Anyway, people are free to celebrate their holidays however they see fit. Get together with family and friends, sit and watch a 500 mile car race, get blind stinking drunk, head to the beach to kick off the summer, or some combination of all. I remember as a kid, when we didn’t have cable and in fact, it didn’t exist, the local networks would scroll the names of war fallen people from the local area. No commercials, no talking heads, just a scroll of names as some piece of classical music was played. That is until the national anthem was played at or just after midnight. That was the extent of anything I ever knew about it.
A couple weeks ago, our DesignDiva pointed out to us that it was Armed Forces day. A day that is not noted on printed calenders anymore and I doubt it gets a mention in any of today’s press. That day is observed the third Saturday of the month. Until 1991, I never gave our military type holidays much thought beyond the BBQ. I didn’t give the military much thought either. I knew they were there to protect us from any threats, foreign and domestic, and as long as I remained unaffected by world events, I can’t say I cared much about what was going on. In 1991 however, actual military action began in Iraq and Kuwait. Further, I knew someone there. My sister’s (then husband) in the 3rd Infantry out of Ft Stewart, Ga. It isn’t the first in my lifetime but it’s the first I had any real knowledge of. I’m too young to really remember the Vietnam war. Excuse me, Conflict.. That’s another action that, as far as I know, never had a formal declaration of war (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). It’s also the conflict that changed, perhaps forever, the perception of many in this country when it comes to our military and, not for the better. So it makes sense to me, though sad, that days meant to celebrate our warriors and defenders, go unnoticed or unobserved. That is unless, it comes with a shortened workweek or triple time pay for working the holiday in a union company. Those of you stocking shelves at 7-11 or somewhere else are shit out of luck on that one.
Apologies for the tangent. Memorial Day, by it’s very name, is a day to honor the dead. When I learn that we actually have holidays to remember the living, I have to wonder why the difference in apparent attitude. We have a federal holiday to honor an Italian who got lost in the ocean over 600 years ago, landed in the West Indies (sp?) as the man who ‘discovered’ America. Columbus Day. If I remember my history correctly, it was Amerigo Vespucci who actually ‘discovered’ this land mass we call home. Some say the Vikings did it 100s of years earlier than either one of them. With all due respect to you gold star families, I think that sucks.
The photo above is completely appropriate for this post because it was taken, on Memorial Day, 2 years ago. When I was at the cemetery to plant a flag at my father’s grave-site. It’s worth noting, that those are all Civil War graves. I will be there again at some point this weekend. The cemetery gives out free flags for the purpose of ‘decoration’. One per customer. I will not show his grave-site because to me, it’s private even though it’s there for anyone walking around, to step on.
I guess where I’m going with all this is, while we are remembering our fallen soldiers, don’t forget about the ones still above ground. Don’t forget about those who have served and are still living. Thank a Vet for the freedom you enjoy. Smack a politician for the freedoms they seek to take away from you (while not being willing to give them up themselves).
That’s about it for my rant.. It’s been awhile.. I’ll be back with some fun stuff at a later date.
Updated to include Empress’ post from last year