Honoring the fallen on Memorial Day

Published 10:27 am Friday, May 24, 2013

Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our national holidays…. The grim cannon have turned into palm branches, and the shell and shrapnel into peach blossoms.
— Thomas Bailey Aldrich

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast, and their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Memorial Day is upon us, and what was once known as Decoration Day is the holiday on which we pause to remember our fallen veterans.

In discussing what to write about this week with my Mother, I suggested Memorial Day and she quickly shared a memory of the holiday from when she was a young girl.

Mom, who grew up in Florida but was born in Georgia, said her Mother would gather flowers from the garden and they would load up the car and drive to Georgia. She said all of her family on her Mother’s side would gather together and clean the small family cemetery to honor the dead. Following that, she said tables were brought out, laden with a feast of wonderful food everyone had brought.

These days some families still participate in the annual cleaning of the graves but unfortunately we’ve moved away from the real meaning of Memorial Day. Commercialization has made it a day of “big” sales events and over the years it has come to mean the kick-off of the summer season. I hope everyone will pause and reflect on the true meaning of this holiday.

I know there are groups, typically Boy Scouts and Veterans’ organizations, who place flags on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day. This is a service that deserves much praise, as they are helping us continue the tradition of decorating the graves. On my afternoon walk around the cemetery this week, I’ve notice the flags placed beside the headstones of veterans. I was truly glad to see them.

My Dad is a veteran of World War II. He served in the 1st Division, 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army. He was one of the lucky ones to survive the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, but many, many of his fellow soldiers did not make it home. He still speaks fondly and with great respect of his commanding officer, Lt. Jimmie Monteith, who died overseas. Lt.

was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions during the Normandy Invasion. When Dad and Mom visited England and France some years ago tracing Dad’s movements of his time spent with the Big Red One, they visited the graves in Normandy and stood beside Monteith’s final resting place to pay tribute.

We all tend to become patriotic on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and Independence Day. We fly the flag and ponder our liberties, grateful to live in this great nation. We put aside partisan politics and are just thankful and grateful to be Americans. As well we should.

As we all gather with our loved ones this Memorial Day holiday, let’s remember the fallen. Thank God for them — let’s remember them and never forget the sacrifices made for us all.

The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.
— Thomas Campbell

LUCY WALLACE is managing editor of The Tidewater News. Her email address is lucy.wallace@tidewaternews.com.