Memorial Day 2013
“Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.”

General Logan with his wife Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan, son Manning Alexander Logan and daughter Mary Elizabeth "Dollie" Logan in about 1870.
--JOHN A. LOGAN, Commander-in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic,
General Orders No.11, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
     Originally known as “Decoration Day”, on May 5, 1868, General Logan, as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order No. 11, establishing May 30 as the annual date “for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of Comrades who died in the defense of their country."
     It wasn't until after World War I the day became known as “Memorial Day”, and in 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday in May.

     As memories of earlier sacrifices made in the name of freedom faded, Memorial Day became more about a day off from work and school, picnics, and the beginning of summer.
     The National Moment of Remembrance was established in the year 2000 asking that wherever we are at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
     On a beautiful sunny morning early this April, Uncle Charles, the patriarch of the family on Dad’s side, was laid to rest.

     Family traveled long distances on short notice to pay their final respects to this great man – a man who worked hard all of his life, raised a family, and was fortunate to enjoy his retirement for many years.  

     Uncle Charles was dearly loved by all of us. With a pipe in his hand and a twinkle in his blue eyes he told us his stories, never forgetting his Tilghman Island roots after moving to Philadelphia so many years ago.  

Knapps Narrows and Tilghman Island Workboats. Photo credit: Greg James
     98 years young, Uncle Charles was a World War II Veteran, United States Navy. 

     The American Flag, inside his casket during the visitation and Mass, was folded in the traditional triangle of blue and stars, reminiscent of the cocked hats worn by the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

    Uncle Charles was buried alongside Aunt Mary in a beautiful cemetery outside of Philadelphia. Small American flags were placed on all of the graves, and here and there the colors of the different service branches flew briskly in the breeze.

     His coffin was covered by the American flag as the pall bearers, his grandsons and nephews, carried him to his final resting place.
Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery

It is the Soldier

It is the Soldier,
not the reporter,

who has given us freedom of press.

It is the Soldier,
not the poet,

who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier,
not the campus organizer,

who gives us freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier
who salutes the flag,

who serves beneath the flag,

and whose coffin is draped by the flag,

who allows the protester to burn the flag.


(Poem attribued to Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, VietNam Veteran, USMC, and later, Chaplain to the First Marine Division Association."Soldier" is used here generically, representing all service branches.)

     German U boats, enemy submarines, traveling in "wolf packs" roamed the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. 
     Eleven watch towers still stand today along the Delaware beaches where look outs used to watch for them.  One U boat even managed to get into the New York Harbor. 

 Photo credit: Wikipedia
US Navy Admirable-class minesweeper USS Pivot in the Gulf of Mexico for
sea trials on 12 July 1944
 It was men like Uncle Charles who kept us safe.
     As we celebrate Memorial Day, or Decoration Day if you still call it that – some do, consider spending time with the “old folks” listening to their stories – living history, before they are gone.

And if you've served, share your story with your loved ones. Perhaps even consider participating in The Veterans History Project.

The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”

     It's sad Uncle Charles is no longer with us... the end of an era.  I believe I'll go back in time and celebrate his life and memories listening to music from the 1940's.

He and Aunt Mary did love to dance!

Rest In Peace, Uncle Charles.  You and Aunt Mary are missed.

Love and Hugs,
     The tightly knit fishing village on a little island in the Chesapeake Bay where he and his five siblings were raised was part of who he was, and he always tried to make the trip down from Philadelphia each year on “Tilghman Island Day” with his children and grandchildren.

    Aunt Reba's crab cakes, the firehouse's oyster dinner, the history and culture of the Island were things he wanted them to experience and appreciate.
  When we think of World War II, what do we think of? Iwo Jima and Normandy? Did you know the War was not that far from home?
     There was no 21 Gun Salute, and I don't remember if Taps was played.  The fog of grief for those we love tends to block things out sometimes, doesn't it? 
     However, he had married into a large, close, Irish family and one of the most touching moments, just before carnations were handed out to lay on the lid of his coffin, was when “Danny Boy” was played one last time for him. 
     After the funeral and then lunch at a local pub, at my cousin’s home sharing memories of good times from years ago while sipping a glass of Tullamore Dew in Uncle Charles' honor, I learned he had served his time in the Navy on a minesweeper.

     Not knowing the name of his ship or exactly where he served, I did a little bit of research about minesweepers on the East Coast during World War II. It was a vessel similar to this he was on.
     This year, giving silent thanks to those no longer with us who served in the military, my thoughts turned toward family members...

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia