Memorial Day 2011
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It’s been 21 years since Dad passed on.  In 1951 he left a small island in the Chesapeake Bay to join the Air Force. 

 

 Dad married a southern girl from West Virginia, made the Air Force his career during the years of the Viet Nam War, and raised three children.

 

After he retired he went back to school for awhile, worked a few part-time jobs and then finally settled down into a job he liked.

 

He died too young, on a beautiful summer day doing what he loved best - working in the yard.

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My son’s other Grandfather was a Shipfitter 2nd Class, in the Pacific on the U.S.S Birmingham during WWII.  He was 18.  

 

He told me that the ship was hit, and as they were going up the ladder to reach the main deck, the man in front of him and the man behind him were blown up.  

 

Pop went on to marry a city girl from Philadelphia, became an independent trucker, and raised seven children.  He died on a gorgeous autumn day, too young, during one of his trucking jobs at the grain mill. 

It’s been 34 years since we lost him.

My Grandfather on my Mother’s side served during WWI.  PapPaw was at an Army camp in Indiana, waiting to be sent to  Europe when the 1918 flu epidemic swept the country and they were quarantined to base.  The war ended, the flu epidemic was over, and he was discharged.  He tried to reenlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked and was told he was too old.  

It’s been 50 years now…

 

The military runs though our family going back to the Civil War with ancestors fighting for both the Union Army and the Confederate Army.

In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed.  It asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans

 

        "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect,

                    pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps."

In Flanders Field

by John McCrae  

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

It’s been ten years since the Afghanistan War began.

Eight years since the Iraq War began.

Eight years since my son became a Marine.

Seven years since his first deployment.

 

The first Memorial Day after the deployment took on a deeper meaning for me as I reflected upon the names of the Marines lost in Fallujah.

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Growing up, my family was not one that visited cemeteries on Memorial Day, although there was always a visit to the family cemeteries when we “went home” to visit.  Memorial Day was always the first barbecue of the season.  In his younger days, Dad would invite the single Airmen working under him, far from home, over for a day of hot dogs, burgers, beer and some intense games of croquet and badminton.

 

I remember wearing Poppies as a young girl, and knew the money was to help disabled war Veterans, loved making little bouquets from them, but didn’t know their history.  I vaguely remember asking Mom and she shook her head, said something about PapPaw and WWI,

"the Great War".

Originally known as “Decoration Day”, Memorial Day began as a holiday celebrated to honor and remember the Nation’s Civil War dead. 

Over 600,000 Confederate and Union soldiers died during the “War Between the States”. 

 

As commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (formed after the Civil War), General John Logan officially proclaimed May 5, 1868 as “Memorial Day”.  Flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  By 1890 the day was recognized by all of the Northern states.  Eventually, the date was changed to May 30th.

 

It wasn’t until after WWI, when the holiday was changed from honoring Civil War dead to honoring Americans who fought in any war that the South finally recognized May 30th as Memorial Day.  Some Southern states continue to recognize their Confederate war dead on their own Confederate Memorial Day.

 

Although Waterloo, New York was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Johnson in May 1966, Petersburg, Virginia claims to be the inspiration for the National Memorial Day.

 

Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 and the date was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May to ensure a three day weekend for Federal employees.

Since the late 1950’s, “The Old Guard” has been placing small American flags on the gravestones at Arlington.  The placing of the flags is called “Flags In”.  Then the Soldiers stand guard 24 hours a day through Memorial Day ensuring that the flags remain standing.

Two summers ago I made my first visit to Arlington National Cemetery.  The number of grave markers and our country’s history, as I walked through this hallowed ground, was intensely overwhelming.  As far as the eye can see, there are rows upon rows of graves in every direction; each headstone representing a life given in service to our country.

Over 1,500,000 Americans have died in service to our country during combat. Did you know there are 24 American military cemeteries overseas?  They are the final resting place of almost 125,000 American war dead, with more than 94,000 memorialized on

Tablets of the Missing.

Mom always did have a hard time speaking about war.  Following in his Daddy’s footsteps (Uncle Clella served in the Army in WWI) her cousin joined the Army.  Jackie was with the 27th Infantry.  He died in Korea in 1951 and she took his death very hard. He had just turned 21.

With flags in hand, members of the U.S. Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry, known as the Old Guard, march out to their assigned sections during the “Flags In” ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 27, 2010. 

DoD photo by William D. Moss

Then on Memorial Day a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

 

 

 

Vice President Joe Biden places a wreath at the

Tomb of the Unknowns at

Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 31, 2010.

DoD photo by R. D. Ward

 

Arlington – Trace Adkins

 As I remember my Dad and my Father-in-law, my PapPaw, and others who have served, I also think about their families – their husbands and wives, their children, their parents, their sisters and brothers.  

 

Families served and continue to do so, along with the men and women who turned their lives over to “Uncle Sam”.  They kept the home fires burning, whether it was plowing the fields, or taking a job to free the men up so they could go to war, or as a spouse raising a family during multiple deployments. There are children who have only heard stories and seen  pictures of their PapPaw, their Daddy or Mommy, their uncle or aunt.  Every name you read in a cemetery with military insignia engraved upon the headstone, is or was, a Hero to someone.

 

Scattered throughout our beautiful land are buried this Nation's sons and daughters who, from one generation to the next, with their blood, sweat, and tears, their dedication and fortitude, have defended the freedoms stated in our Constitution; our God-given rights that make our country unparalled in the world.

 

We must ensure the next generation never forgets where our freedoms came from. 

 

"America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."

-- Harry S. Truman

 

And this is what our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen have done through out our country’s history.

They “did the job at hand.”

 

PapPaw is buried in the family cemetery on a hill in Kentucky. 

Dad and Pop’s final resting places are in a Veterans cemetery here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

We will remember.