When I was a kid in the early 1960, Memorial Day was still called “Decoration Day.” It became Memorial Day circa 1967. On that one day, set aside to respect for our fallen heroes, we used to go the graves of all the veterans and put flowers on them. The tradition goes back to the Civil War, some say before that in the South.
Today? For many it is just another three-day holiday weekend packed with sales and shopping at the big box stores, burgers and weenies all around, as we mark the unofficial kickoff of summer. And today, less than 1 percent of Americans enlist in the Armed Services.
My grandson called me today to say some woman told him, “Happy Memorial Day.” He found that ironic. He is an Afghan War infantry combat veteran who saw his fellow troopers blown to bits in Afghanistan—fighting for the same freedom some fellow Americans seem so eager to diminish—and he was badly wounded himself. And today he suffers from survivor’s guilt to the point he hesitates to access his military benefits.
I am proud to say that serving America is what my family has done since emigrating from the Scottish Highlands after their defeat at Collodon Moor circa 1745. My father barely survived the Battle of Okinawa during World War II when his ship was nearly sunk by Kamikazi pilots. The casualties were so high that this convinced President Truman to use atomic weapons against Japan. Had we invaded, we likely would have suffered up to a million casualties. Since my father was to be part of the Invasion Forces, I might not have been born. And the war might have continued until 1947.
So this weekend I will look at my father’s photos from WWII, clean the Arisaka rifle and Katana he brought back from WWII. Then I will go to that lonely mountaintop grave where he is interred and remember that he, all my uncles, my grandfather (Spanish American War) and all the other men and women gave—as President Lincoln observed, “The last measure of devotion.”
I'll leave the burgers and barbecues to those Americans who have NO CLUE what Memorial Day is really about. More’s the pity.
Forget your history? You may lose your liberty someday. Thank God for the NRA!