By the time I came along it was more a three-day week-end, family picnics, start of camping season; and if you could fit it in, a time to head up to the cemetery with bouquets of flowers to tidy up your family's gravestones from the winter's invasion of grass and moss.
In our case, all of our parents are buried in a country cemetery a mile or so from our farm on a hill with tall trees surrounding the graveyard. We will drive up the gravel road to there sometime over this week-end. Many of the headstones will have bouquets beside them-- some real flowers and some plastic. After putting flowers by our own family, I will stop by other markers to spend a few moments remembering those I knew and in some cases recalling when they died.
The most meaningful Memorial Day for me was several years ago in Missoula, Montana. It was our first morning there on a vacation, with no plan to do other than walk along the Clark Fork River, which runs through downtown Missoula, when we saw people gathering on the bridge above us. The uniforms on some of the people told us it was some kind of Memorial Day event, and we walked up the steps to join the small group.
Waiting, the atmosphere of the mist in the air, the mountains in the distance all around the city, and the quiet gathering of the aging soldiers it would have been impossible to not feel a stirring deep inside. The ones there that day had come in two groups. One was made up of old veterans in their stiffly pressed uniforms and proud demeanor, very like my deceased father-in-law; the other was Vietnam era veterans who had come in on motorcycles with long hair, scarves, tattoos and an in-your-face attitude, which was no less proud, and very like my brother.
The two didn't exactly blend together, but they did stand side by side under the flag for which they had all served as words were said, songs sung and a trumpet played. It was extremely moving, and I felt tears on my cheeks . An elderly couple walked to the railing and the wife threw a wreath into the river swollen by snow melt. It was quickly carried out of sight.
A wreath thrown into a river, for various purposes, has also been a pagan ritual which to me gave the doing of it added meaning. So many things come from ancient roots and we never know the why. It just seems right (like decorating graves which goes back to Greek and Roman traditions and probably back farther than that). The wreath that morning floating away was a primitive, human way to beautifully express loss and sacrifice-- a symbol for all who prematurely gave up their lives for a cause they believed in or sometimes simply because they were caught up in something from which honor would not let them walk away.
As a country we should never forget those who have given everything for their country. We should do whatever we can to make their sacrifice not be in vain. One way to do this is to honor those currently fighting as well as making sure they have the best equipment we know to provide. I think it behooves us to be sure our government fulfills its promises to all living veterans. Budgets should not be cut at the expense of the soldiers who fought and are fighting. For us, as a nation, that is also an issue of honor.
Finally for anyone with cable TV and an interest in history, check out History Channel Monday night for a program on George Washington. Sounded well worth viewing as he was instrumental in much of what this country came to be. From what I have read, a major factor in why we have a presidency not a monarchy. We always think only one man can't make a difference-- but some can.
(The photo is of our flag which we frequently fly as a symbol of our pride in this nation where we feel blessed to live.)