Memorial Day is when you stop for a minute and acknowledge the soldiers and sailors who died while serving our nation. It’s not uncommon for local veterans to decorate the graves of vets in cemeteries across the country. And in small towns, there’s often a vet who keeps a bundle of small flags in a closet for 364 days every year, and then on Memorial Day pulls them out of storage and spends the early morning putting the flags on the graves of vets.
From sometime in the early 1950s until 2002, my father was the vet who was responsible for putting out the flags at the cemetery of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Misenheimer, North Carolina. For more than 50 years, the man didn’t miss a Memorial Day doing this small but important honor. He did it until his health failed him and he simply couldn’t do it any longer.
These photos of Memorial Day observances are from one of my favorite websites, the Library of Congress American Memory Project at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html.
The photo at the top of this entry shows black cavalrymen at a Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C. in 1942. The photo is by Roydan Dixon.
The photo above by Fenno Jacobs shows a parade in Hartford, Connecticut, also in 1942.
1942 was a bad year for the United States. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had happened barely six months earlier, and the outcome of the war in the Pacific was still very much in doubt. So Memorial Day of 1942 undoubtedly had a special poignancy.
Regardless of how you feel about the legitimacy of the present war in Iraq, it would be appropriate to pause for a moment and acknowledge the more than 4,000 American service personnel who have died in combat there.