Memorial Day weekend…the official unofficial start of summer. For me and Janet Memorial Day weekend has been a time for baseball, BBQ, and water skiing in the murky waters of the Susquehanna River. Well…water skiing is now a thing of the past for this old body but the rest of it is still good. I wrote an article a few years ago about taking a different approach to celebrating the holiday, and I’d like to revisit that. Don’t get me wrong…springtime revelry over Memorial Day weekend is fine…heaven knows I love a good BBQ…but many people also find time to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed all so that we might enjoy the freedoms we so often take for granted, and that’s the focus of this post.
My friend Eric is one of those people who find the time to pay tribute. Eric and his girlfriend plan to take time out of their Memorial Day holiday this year to visit the grave site of a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient. He didn’t die during the war but he did give his all and carried multiple battle wounds with him to this grave that Eric plans to visit. The gesture holds special meaning for Eric since he is a Civil War buff, and discovered that the grave site is only a few miles from where he grew up, and where he now lives (same town, different houses). Eric won’t be fighting holiday traffic, and I don’t believe anyone will much care whether or not he wears a mask during his visit. He’ll be paying a simple tribute to an American hero in his own way.
Being so close to Washington, D.C. there is no shortage of places to go if you want to pay tribute to those who died while serving our country. Perhaps the best known and most moving experience would be to visit Arlington National Cemetery, but you don’t have to go all the way to Washington D.C. There are Veteran’s cemeteries in every state. You also don’t have to personally know someone who died while serving the country to pay your respects.
Some Memorial Day purists are quick to point out the difference between who we are honoring on Memorial Day as opposed to Veteran’s Day. When it comes to honoring the dead, I’m not one of those. I don’t think there is ever a wrong time to pay tribute to those who served in defense of the nation and who are no longer with us. One of the most touching national tributes that takes place over the Memorial Day holiday is the “Flags In” honor at Arlington National Cemetery. Flags in is the practice of soldiers currently serving in the Old Guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, placing a single American flag at the base of each of the more than 228,000 headstones and 7,000 niche rows in the cemetery’s Columbarium Courts and Niche Wall. They don’t skip the graves of those who died after the war was over, nor should we in our Memorial Day remembrance.
One of my favorite ways to observe Memorial Day is to tune into the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS. This year it airs on Sunday, May 30th beginning at 8PM and if you haven’t watched it before I highly recommend it. They have assembled an impressive list of guests to entertain as usual, while at the same time remembering stories of sacrifice and courage that will bring tears to your eyes.
This year Janet and I will be heading out to San Diego to observe Memorial Day with our son Rob and his family. Rob is undergoing refresher training as a Navy helicopter pilot prior to being stationed out of the country, and we are eager to spend time with him and his family as they anticipate their next great adventure. There will be BBQ, there may be fireworks, and if the O’s game is televised in San Diego, by golly there will be baseball! We will also find time to honor those who lost their lives so that we might enjoy those things.
Enjoy the BBQ, baseball and brats this Memorial Day. And if you don’t already do so, maybe consider your own way of remembering those who lost their lives in service to our country.