Originally Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. It was the day Americans everywhere would go to the local cemeteries, especially VA cemeteries, and decorate the graves of veterans. It began to honor those who died in the Civil War. Here is an "official" history of Memorial Day if you are interested:
As a kid, I remember it was a rather somber holiday which we still often spent at the lake with a picnic. Soldiers and war dead were few and far between in my family. My great uncle Norm served in WWII. He was the only American-born among his siblings of which there were eight, on being my maternal grandmother. I remember Uncle Norm being very quiet in what was a rather raucous family given to great laughter and mirth. He would sit quietly at family gatherings. He always seemed to have a far-away look in his eyes. I never really talked to him much. I wonder now if he had what they now call "shell shock". I remember hearing he was at Normandy on D-Day. He eventually came down with Parkinson's Disease and died in the 1970's one week after his wife of forty-plus years.
The other war veteran I know of was my cousin Mike. His war was Vietnam. It was not something he talked about much either. He was a few years old than me and we were't really close. He married, had kids, divorced, and had a long term relationship with a Vietnamese woman. I haven't had any contact with him in years, so I probably will never really know much of his "story".
If there are other veterans in the family, I don't know of them. I was declared ineligible for service when I was 19 due to health issues. Frankly, I didn't think I would make a good soldier. I think the armed forces would agree. Vietnam would have been "my war." Of course, all wars belong to all of us.
Anyway, I wasn't sure where I was headed with this blog today. I felt like I should write something about such an important holiday. But is it for patriotism or for remembrance? Is it a time to take stock of the costs of war or to honor those who were sacrificed during time of war? As usual for me on these type of ocaisions, I am torn. I fly my flag mostly because it is my flag and I am, even if I don't agree with, "my country right or wrong", I do still believe in this great experiment called the United States. I just wish we'd get it together and be that "shining city on the hill", that "beacon of hope", we say we are, and at times truly are in spite of our shortcomings.
Decoration Day or Memorial Day. No matter what you call it, it is a day I think about these things and I expect that is what it meant to be for.