Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Observed

In my younger years, we always looked forward to Memorial Day, but shamefully I admit, it wasn’t for the noble reasons it should have been.

It was simply because this was the first holiday of the great season of summer. We celebrated it by going camping! Well-- that was after we made a stop by the cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of our dearly departed. To me, it was a minor inconvenience, although I thought the flowers were always very pretty and the flags looked pretty cool.

Okay, I admit I had some very immature and very selfish thoughts back then, and yes, my parents tried earnestly to teach me what Memorial Day really was about. I just didn’t understand or truly appreciate it. I wasn’t listening. My mind was on sleeping out under the stars out at the lake. Wahoo!, I mean, it was finally summer!

I was quite young when my Grandpa Lawrence passed away, although I remember how great it was to always get a silver dollar every time he came to visit. Back then a silver dollar could buy all kinds of things at the candy counter.

I wasn’t a whole lot older when my Grandma Lawrence passed away and though I have a few fond memories of her, what I wouldn’t give to have a few more.

My Grandpa Christensen is buried in Denmark and my Grandma Christensen is still living. She turned 101 this past April. How wonderful is that? Can you imagine the things she has experienced in her lifetime?

We usually decorated my Grandpa and Grandma Lawrence’s graves. Grandpa’s always had a flag from serving in WWI. I always thought that was really something special to see by his headstone. I do remember even from a very young age, how proud I was of him for “earning the right to have a flag.”

Since my own mother has passed away, we have started a new tradition in our family. Each Memorial Day weekend, we go to my Dad’s house to spend the night so that early in the morning on Memorial Day, we can get up and go to the little country cemetery where my mom is to see the sunrise ceremony put on by the American Legion for the fallen soldiers.

The flag is raised at half- staff, there is a 21 gun salute, and off in the distance, a bugler plays “Taps” as the sun rises over the mountains. Words cannot describe the feeling that comes over you during the ceremony. It’s beautiful, it’s respectful, it brings a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes.

Every person who has served their country has a white cross that holds the United States flag near their headstone, placed by a volunteer from the American Legion. A large board with two flags is placed in the cemetery with all the soldiers names listed and where they served. This stands near the flag pole so that everyone can see it during the sunrise ceremony.

Recently my dad has talked much of wanting a veteran’s burial with the flag over his casket when he passes. He loves this country and gets somewhat emotional when he speaks of his time in the service and when he listens to the haunting melody of “Taps." I saw it again at that early sunrise service this past Memorial Day.

My son asked his grandpa what Memorial Day stood for. We all got in on the discussion sharing the little bit that we knew, and then I decided to look it up. Did you know that…

Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. It was observed back in 1865 by freedmen (freed enslaved southern blacks) in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, at the Washington Race Course, to remember the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. The recognition of the fallen victims was then enacted under the name Memorial Day by an organization of Union veterans to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. Overtime, it was extended after World War I to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Now known as Memorial Day, it is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Many people observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at National Cemeteries.(Taken from WIKIPEDIA)

As a mother, I hope I can somehow let my children keep the thrill of the start of summer in their heart, but somehow instill the importance of honoring Memorial Day.

I think my son is already years ahead of me than I was at his age years by even wanting to know and understand the purpose of such an important day suchas Memorial Day. I only hope I can help him appreciate the purpose of it.

1 comment:

Cheri J. Crane said...

Beautiful post, Jeri. We were on the same wave-length this week. ;)