At the end of this month we’ll celebrate Memorial Day. Another national holiday to some but one that should be of major importance to us all.
Memorial Day is the day we’ve set aside to honor those who have died in the defense of our nation since its inception. All too often we use this day off from work as the start of summer without any regard to its meaning or significance. We picnic, barbeque, swim or do a multitude of other outdoor activities without taking even a moment to think about why we are observing the day in the first place.
If you go to this website: (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004615.html) you’ll find a list of all of the war casualties beginning with the Revolutionary War to the present. Total these up and it comes out to a little over 1,190,000 citizens of this country who have died in battle or as a result of a battle for our liberty.
This is what Memorial Day is about. It isn’t about carpooling to a theme park or grabbing a choice table at the park. It’s about remembering those who died so that we can live in this country. It’s about giving some thought to how we remain free and enjoy our lives as a result of someone giving up their lives to protect us.
I am a veteran, but isn’t me that should receive honor on Memorial Day, it’s those who did not get to come home.
In the past several years we’ve had a number of movies or television programs about war. ‘Saving Private Ryan’as well as ‘Band of Brothers’and now the series’. ‘Pacific’. It’s my opinion these should be required viewing for all of our students at some point in their education. The only time anyone ever shot at me was when I was a cop and I have a hard time remembering how I felt at the time since the incidents were so brief. If you have seen any of the war productions I think you will agree with me that they are probably the most accurate portrayal of an actual battlefield experience other than a documentary. I cannot see how anyone who survived those battles could easily sit through a screening of these films without having some sort of flashback. These will hurt your heart.
My Dad made the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944, but he never talked about it. After seeing these film productions I think I can imagine why. The violence was so great and inhuman I think it would be impossible not to scar you for life with the imprint of death and destruction. It’s a wonder any of our men and women who did come home could ever function in civilized society again. Requiring our youngsters to see these films would serve to make them aware of the huge sacrifices others have made for our freedom. Certainly we have issues and differences in this country between ourselves, but in the end we are Americans and we owe a lot to the people who died on our behalf.
The holiday was actually started back in May of 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina by a group of former slaves who had been freed as a result of the Civil War. A mass grave for Union soldiers was exhumed and their remains reburied in individual grave sites. Their memory was celebrated and called Decoration Day. A crowd of over 10,000 showed up for the celebration. The term ‘Memorial Day’was first used in 1882 and was celebrated on May 30th, until 1968, when the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill which moved three holidays to a specified Monday in order to make a three day weekend. The time for a moment of remembrance is 3pm on Memorial Day and all flags should be flown at half staff until noon on this day.
I’m certain there are those reading my columns who may object to the thought that we should teach our youth about war and its horrors. My only comment would be that their freedom to object is given to them and to me as a direct result of the lives of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for all of us. Not just one or two of us, but for all of us. Our history is what defines us, we should never forget these heroes and certainly should think of them at least for a moment on Memorial Day, 2010 and every year thereafter.