What is Memorial Day?
LT Bobby Ross
My years whirl past me. Swirling. Dry, broken grass hovering in a
spring breeze. Can I remember my experiences in war? Hardly. Fighting
for my country, my youth invested, seems such a long time ago, and so
unimportant. The calendar this year marks Memorial Day on the 27th of
May,2002. Have I lost something? The traditional Memorial Day, also known
as Decoration Day, is on the 30th of May. This observed Memorial Day on May
27th coincidentally allows for a national three day holiday. Such is
commercialism's capitalistic American display. But why do I feel so
stricken, like I have abandoned old friends from long ago? Their ghosts
consort with my floating years, and their spirits coast around my presence.
Another three day holiday! Memorial Day! Maybe me and the kids can go
camping? Or, to the beach? Memorial Day is fun! This is the
inconsiderate, thoughtless approach to this meaningful, and consecrated
moment representing one three hundred and sixty-fifth of our year.
the meaning of Memorial Day? Is it merely a three day escape from our
worldly duties? Or, is it the official beginning of summer? Is selling
more hot dogs at the ballpark the overriding clarification?
sacrificed in war, in duty to America, are wandering. They drift in a
heavenly place, minus their future here upon earth. Tomorrows were forfeited.
Given up so our nation would invigorate free souls, aspire them to
freedom, and justly allow their lives lived as they prefer. Raising
offspring above restrictions, as they desire. Those lost lives giving we,
the living, what we want freely.
Those are the souls we respect on Memorial
Day. This means it is a sacred day. Without retrospect, sacrifice is
mute. Old Glory does not wave by accident. It flutters in the spring air
revealing honor. The color red represents the blood bloom from those who
fell, those who clawed, those who cried in horrible pain. Those who died
fast. And, those who died ever so slowly. They did their duty.
When I see
Old Glory waving on a sunny, end of May day, the pigment red gushes from
millions of souls, floating, not with us, anymore. They are amongst our
heroes, cajoling with angels with their champions, conquerors and
commanders. Friends and loved ones gather, over the rave, witness to those
who gave more than anyone should be required to relinquish. They did not
want to yield. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when the
moment harshly struck them their fatal blow, they cried for their mother, or
their friend. Then there
were those, many of those, who knew exactly what they were giving. They
moved forward knowingly. They lost their lives so their mission would be
Fools! Some intellects can say that. One would have to be
an imbecile to give up life, no matter what the cause. For a flag? Futile!
For a country! More pointless! For freedom! What freedom is there in
Yes, fools they may have been, but their numbers add up in an
awesome display of American loss! Veterans' Cemeteries, white badges
sailing row after row after row upon green grass, almost never ending,
creeping onto the horizon. Constant reminders of the devastation of our
human treasure. Mothers' tears, enough to fill an ocean to overflow.
Sweethearts, broken hearted, reading telegrams. Sons and daughters, many
unborn, wakening at birth to a devastated family suffering from a victim of
war there no more.
And what does all this macabre math equal? Memorial Day
is the correct answer. Few Americans know a person who died in war.
Their family trees have lost some leaves, falling as they fought in one of
America's wars, or discarded in the peacetime military.
We are a busy
people. We have business to capture. Our kids are in school. We have
chores. Mundane, or surrealistic. We are a spirited society, seeking
applications to improve ourselves and our communities.
We are a helpful
populace, always there when the going gets tough to help those who have
suffered the tragedies of nature, whether a hurricane or a famine.
Americans are always the first on the scene worldwide bearing their gifts of
human spirit and abundance.
This is why it is so puzzling that the meaning
of Memorial Day seems to lack substance to many of our own people. Even
with the day itself. Put back to accommodate a holiday schedule fixed by
some organism no one knows, yet powerful enough to do so, the day itself
lacks consequence to too many. Many who never knew a person who died in
service to America are wrought with the invisible pain of not feeling for
those who do.
Americans take things for granted. We have so much. So
very much. Endless choices. These options are not available worldwide. Our
shelves are full. Unlike many in other nations of the world. So many are
empty or offer very limited selections. Those American fighting men and
women killed in battle whose souls are floating actually made available
these wondrous choices we have every day of our American lives.
of our youngsters have no idea whatsoever what this means. They don't learn
this in school. We must teach them. For without knowledge, they may end up
thinking, or believing, all these marvelous selections came without
circumstance. Minus anything. Equaling no meaning.
Our nation needs to halt and perceive the flags and flowers on our
Veterans graves on this consecrated holiday. We need to lift a common
voice of adoration to those floating spirits of our onetime American
Warriors, and extol them with a salutation. We have not come that far with
our technological miracles of this millennium to become crass. We still
need respect. Our backs can not turn from formality. Our eyes can not look
away from custom. Our voices must not resonate in silence against honor and
glory. To do so will leave us hollow, only to fill us with that which is
desolate and lacking potential. This is not the true meaning of Memorial
The heartfelt significance requires reminding. Story telling. Wisdom
being passed on from our Veterans to our younger generations. An
interpretation certified by those who remember the horrors of war. Without
this core, our society can not remain genuine. It becomes contemptible. It
rots from within. These floating souls of our lost American Warriors are a
powerful force, for they live within our hearts. They constantly seek
justification for their contributions, and they are real within us. Such is
what our American substance stands for, where character is developed,
individually is guaranteed, and a community, a nation, survives.
America enters the 21st Century as the most powerful entity
humankind has ever experienced. America permeates this next century with
vast responsibilities. Our children must bear this promise. We can not
turn our backs on these bygone descendants, nor can we do so upon
Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to express a moment of
solitude where each of us can personify in our own way what we feel. I
only speak for my myself, as one who has bared his soul to the dread of
war. So my father did, and his father's father before him, and their souls
float amongst the multitudes. My mother and her mother held their Veterans
after they returned from war, tears streaming down their cheeks in gratitude
for their safe return. And there were those in my ancestry who did not
return from war. And their mothers' tears soaked the pillows on beds for
generations to sleep upon. Their souls are the dreams that drift amongst
the floating, gathering at the end of May in the breeze of summer's coming,
in the cool glass of lemonade at the child's street side stand, in the
cheers at the ball game from the crowd rooting their team to victory and
enjoying the best hot dogs in the world.
Let us all stop for a moment,
whether it is on the traditional day, or the observed Memorial Day, or even
at the end of May, and reach for those floating souls. Let us reveal to
them how much we cherish their sacrifice for our free people. Let these
memories harvest our recognition of the meaning of Memorial Day in a very
simple word. And let that word, simply stated be: Thanks. (Copyright 2000)