In the rural Midwest where I was born and, I am told, in the rural south as well, the federal holiday now known as Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. Only in recent decades have people there begun to say Memorial Day.
I remember well the annual practice of going to cemeteries with my family to clean up the grave sites of long departed ancestors and of those who had passed more recently, that we, even as children, had known and loved.
We trimmed the spring grass around headstones, stood in silent reflection and considered the family tree and our own place on it. We “decorated” the graves with fresh flowers and moved through the cemetery grounds noting other family plots and respectfully greeting other families performing the annual ritual as well.
Today the holiday is observed to honor those who served and died defending the freedoms we enjoy and treasure as Americans. That tradition originated at the time of the civil war and is practiced throughout the country today. We have moved the official observance to the last Monday in May as a convenience but until 1970 it was May 30th.
While I love and honor the practice of Memorial Day as commemoration of our fallen heroes it occurs to me that my departed ancestors are my heroes as well and sacrificed much to build the comparatively easy life I lead today. They remain on my mind each Memorial Day. In that spirit I wrote these few words this morning.
A May Memorial
They were all heroes, those people upon whose shoulders I stand. They broke the sod of prairies and forged the iron to build the machines of harvest. They wrote history first hand building schools, hospitals and roads where there were none.
And later, they built the armaments, picked them up and went off to war to defend our way of life. Not once but many times and in many countries.
They do it today, driven by the same patriotism and love of freedom and yes, they will do it in the future as well. And yes, many have given and will give their last full measure of devotion defending our freedom.
Did you feel that? Did your family feel that? Because if you felt it you understand compassion and contain the capacity to renew America as they did and do.
Les Deck, 2018