Monday, May 30, 2011

The Tradition of Memorial Day

I grew up as the daughter of a mother from the South who followed the tradition of "Decoration Day" (which she learned as a child) over the years even as she moved north to Massachusetts, where I grew up. Every year this would be the day when the graves of family members were cleaned of debris from the winter, trimmed up and flowers planted or baskets placed. Often, as relatives might have lived in several different areas, many towns were visited along a circuitous route. Along the way one might hear tales of Aunt Fanny or Uncle Johnny or other family stories. Several cemeteries had Veterans sections and this was where "Wally -- who received a Purple Heart after he was killed in World War ll, was buried. I heard the tale of how his mother was so devastated when her son was buried in a far off land (Italy), that she joined a group of Gold Star Mothers who successfully petitioned President Truman and the Military to bring the "boys" home to rest. Each service member had the same simple white tombstone provided. Over the years this veterans section of the cemetery sadly grew and grew. Some additions were from the deaths of those who had also served in the so-called "World Wars" and could call this their final resting place near comrades. Other from more wars or conflicts as Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and now Iraq and Afghanistan brought the deaths of more and more of our young and able bodied Americans. I expect that today, in Massachusetts, my sister is following this tradition.

Traditions are too frequently disappearing in this hustle-bustle world. The family is too busy to power down and remember the slower paces of yesteryear. Society is too busy to stop and hear the voices from the past which have shaped our todays and will influence our tomorrows. We now often do not know our neighbor, so there is no village to stop by when one is ill or to bring food after a family member dies. Tragedies do seem to bring communities together and shared tragedies such as hurricanes or tornadoes do tend to create networks of caring others. Americans do continue the traditions of helping out and are quick to donate blood for those whom they will never know. They collect clothes or give money for the less fortunate whose homes have been destroyed by whatever disasters occurred. We are a generous people, willing to help. There are still groups heading to the Gulf of Mexico to work on rebuilding communities destroyed by Katrina, back in 2005. Volunteers rescued animals that lost owners and homes. The Gulf oil gusher brought many to the oily shores to rescue birds and sea turtles, so we, as a country do come together to help others frequently. I do hope we never lose this "can-do" spirit, this sense of pioneer trail blazing that has shown us the way west and into space. I do hope we send this tradition into the next generation, much as my mother celebrated her sense of generations evolving.

In a more than 25 year tradition, thousands of motorcycle riding veterans and others joined together as Rolling Thunder roared into Washington this weekend to commemorate Memorial Day and honor those who served this country, both living and deceased. My late brother, a Vietnam vet, always relished their annual tribute. (Memo to Sarah Palin -- the tradition is about service and sacrifice, not about wearing black and riding a Harley, but probably she'll never figure this out.) The Washington Post had an article about Vets who regularly wash the Wall on the Vietmam Veterans' Memorial as their way of remembering the fallen. Now that is a tradition we should all support.

Do you have a tradition you wish to share? Let us know by writing us here.

1 comment:

  1. My Memorial Day tradition is to find a senior who is also a vet and help do some home improvements, to make his or her home safer and more comfortable to live.

    I do not, however, donated used clothing or food items when disaster strikes that are not specifically requested, nor run and offer to volunteer. Those actions actually make matters much worse. It's best to get specific training in how to provide disaster relief if you want to go do that, and follow the instructions from the affected state on how to make the correct decisions on donations. As an emergency management professional, I know that good intentions are a reflection of the great heart that we as Americans have, but sometimes people don't know that their actions can make recovery more difficult.

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