Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2001

Memorial Day should mean something more

May 31, 2001

I like long weekends as much as the next guy. (Unfortunately, in my business that generally means additional work, but that's okay, and not what I really want to talk about.) I even understand why most of our major holidays have been moved to Mondays I think. The one problem I have with this change is that it frequently detracts from the original intent of the holiday. That is certainly the case with Memorial Day. If you ask most of our high school students or even college people, I believe they would not be able to tell you much about Memorial Day, except that it is the beginning of summer and a time when their grandparents visited family burial sites to put flowers on the graves of family members.

While I certainly have no problem with that, it is not what the day was intended to commemorate.

Originally the holiday was called Decoration Day and that is what my grandparents knew it as. It had little to do with deceased family members, unless those relatives had served and died in the Civil War. The original ceremonies and celebrations were specifically intended to honor those who died preserving the Union.

As the United States finished their involvement in other wars, Decoration Day or Memorial Day as it came to be known, embraced those fallen Veterans as well. The day became one where the nation as a whole took time to honor those who died while serving in the Armed forces. We still give lip service to that idea sometimes. I guess this is where I begin to feel the pinch about moving the holiday to the convenient Monday closest to May 30. We have tagged the commemoration on the end of a great weekend to go boating, have picnics and get a head start on the summer vacation season.

Being what we are, we have taken the pain, sorrow, and tragedy out of our collective awareness and shoved it under the carpet, trying to personally ignore the people who are not with us because they were not fortunate enough to survive their service to this nation. We refuse to allow that remembrance to interrupt our routine even for one day.

I guess I find myself at odds with myself over the issue, because I, too, have a tendency to ignore the memory of those fallen comrades. Sure, their faces will sometimes creep unannounced into my awareness. At times, I will find myself pondering about Donnie Pencil's son who never had a chance to meet his father or Greg Bolduc's wife of three weeks. I wonder how Doug Rooker's little sister is making out without the big brother she adored. I know what it is like to be cleaning out a closet and run across a picture of someone that died in some conflict and have all that brought back to the surface. The memories are hard to deal with at times, so I push them away and think about something else.

It is that personal habit that makes me think we do them all an injustice by making sure that this day of remembrance doesn't intrude too much into our routine. Most of them didn't ask for the "honor," even if they weren't drafted into service. I doubt that many, if any, of them intended to lay down their life for their country. In respect for them, I think we should be inconvenienced.

Consequently, while I will have joined the National and community celebrations that may or may not be aimed at remembering them, I will take some time today to try to dredge up the faces of Donnie, Mouse Kid, Wild Bill, Greg, Doug and the others I once knew and for a brief time endure the subdued discomfort that still hangs on at the thought of them. I will try to remember the smells, the sounds, and the emotions that we shared so that in some way I might be challenged to be a better citizen and a better human being. Not that they would have demanded it, but because what they did really did make a difference, even if we are not aware of it today.

Monte - the Dancing Bear; Baldwin City Recreation Commission, 820 High Street; Phone, 594-3670; e-mail,

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