See you at the flag pole on Memorial Day
In the small Iowa town where I was raised, Memorial Day was a very special day. Our community’s men and women who served their country during war and peace times gathered to march in the Memorial Day parade.
World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam War veterans, were among those who lined the street as they proudly made their descent down the hill from our community school to the local American Legion post. Family, friends and town folk greeted them with flags waving and cheers.
One particular Memorial Day, my World War II veteran father could be seen beaming from ear-to-ear. My brother, William, had just graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy and was home on furlough to deliver the Memorial Day address.
While I don’t recall all the words spoken by my brother, I do remember one particular part of his speech that still resonates with me.
He spoke of the local veterans who left their families and loved ones behind as they marched off to war or enlisted. They left family farms, businesses and said good-bye not knowing if they would ever return.
He spoke of our neighbor who lost his life in the Vietnam War. He was just a regular farm boy who was comfortable working the land with his father and brothers. He never begrudged the fact he received a low draft number. He was chosen to serve his country and he did. Only he died at the hand of enemy fire only a few weeks before he was scheduled to come home.
Why do men and women want to go to war? Why do they make this sacrifice? Why do they put themselves in harm’s way?
My brother said there was only one answer: love for a great country called the United States of America.
Over the years, I believe citizens have forgotten about Memorial Day.
Shocked? Well it’s true.
What does Memorial Day stand for? Parades and picnics? The opening of swimming pools? A day off? The start of summer?
If public opinion surveys are believed to be accurate, most Americans don’t know much about Memorial Day’s purpose or history. That’s a pity because it removes an important bond with those brave men, and women, who have given their lives in our nation’s service.
Three-day weekends are OK, but I believe they have eroded the holiday’s significance. In 1968, Congress debated the wisdom of moving several public holidays to Monday.
At that time, a writer by the name of Bill Kaufmann quoted a Tennessee congressman saying, “If we do this, 10 years from now our schoolchildren will not know what February 22 means. They will not know or care when George Washington was born. They will know that in the middle of February they will have a three-day weekend for some reason. This will come.”
Sorry to say, but it has. Memorial Day, like other celebrations uprooted from their fixed dates, has lost much of its importance.
More than a million American fighting men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, our values, and our very existence.
On Monday, May 27, I hope you will join me at the flag pole in downtown Forest City at 11 a.m. to celebrate Memorial Day. It should be a day of solemn reflection on some of the most sacred of human ideals: Faith, family, duty, commitment, heroism and honor.
I am so profoundly indebted to all military men and women who have given their lives defending this great nation. Thank you for your service to our country.
Wanda Moeller is the publisher of The Daily Courier. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org