Maybe Mr. Saunders should go back to Canada where he came from. Memorial Day is a day of national mourning for our war dead and is a not happy day as far as I’m concerned.
To this day, I still remember my first Memorial Day experience. I was about 8 years old. I thought it was a Sunday. I was dressed in my best clothes and Dad wore his Sunday suit. Mom was in a dark blue dress wearing a small black hat with a meshed veil attached to reverently cover her head.
I sat in the back seat of the car trying to prevent the huge potted geranium plant from tipping over and asked Dad where we were going. From the back seat I could see my father in the rear view mirror. His eyes were sad and his face was solemn. My mother turned to me and said, “We’re going to pay our respects to your uncle.” Mom’s brother was killed in one of our first European skirmishes of World War II. He was shipped home and buried at our local Catholic cemetery.
The huge, green pasture of deceased Christian souls was busy with people kneeling, genuflecting and praying in front of epitaphs engraved in granite markers. They all seemed to march at a crawling cadence, carrying prayer books in one hand and flowers or plants in the other. To me, it looked like someone sold an awful lot of potted geraniums that morning. Mom placed our plant at the foot of her brother’s headstone, kissed the engraved emblem of the Purple Heart, lowered the black veil to cover her face and with her eyes swollen with tears, prayed for his soul’s entry into heaven.
In front of the mausoleum, at the center of it all, was a huge tent shading the local monsignor, dignitaries and three men in uniform carrying rifles. Benediction and blessing were performed by the most holy representative of Christ, dignitaries made their speeches and the three uniformed men fired a three-gun salute over everyone’s head. Then we all prayed for our war heroes from the first and second world wars buried deep beneath this hallowed ground of eternal rest.
But before the microphones were disconnected from the mausoleum, a little man dressed in his doughboy uniform approached the lectern of honor and gently, softly and meaningfully made an unsolicited benediction of his own. I didn’t understand most of his comments. I know they had meaning because everyone stood, listened and applauded when he was finished.
He was a World War I veteran. His wheelchair was barely larger than he was. His lower legs were probably still in some European battlefield and his chest was covered with medals, ribbons and pride.
His soft and almost surreal voice echoed his eulogy across that field of monuments, white crosses and Purple Hearts like a scream from the top of a mountain. He likened the dead war heroes to a brotherhood, a brotherhood of comrades in arms with one common bond: patriotism and sacrificing their lives for our country. He said he welcomes the day when he joins them.
Before he left the podium, he asked everyone to silently pray for the war dead of our enemies. He said, “Any soldier who obediently serves and dies for his country is as much a hero as anyone buried beneath us today,” words I still agree with.
Our public mourning on Memorial Day has been desecrated with 24-hour sales, the Indianapolis 500, sporting events and entertainment. For some, it’s just another paid holiday. They forget it was paid for with the blood of American servicemen.
It’s also been labeled the unofficial beginning of summer. Maybe that’s why everyone wishes us a happy Memorial Day. Or maybe it’s just another sound of ignorance by insensitive broadcasters like John Saunders, store clerks and the majority of the population.
So, to the insensitive people around me, please silent your sounds of ignorance and don’t wish me a happy Memorial Day because no patriotic American should ever have a “happy Memorial Day.”
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.