I’m hardly qualified to speak about Memorial Day. I think of it, even, as one of the lesser holidays. Like Easter, whose traditions are fine when there are small children in the household, but seem silly (other than the religious significance, of course) otherwise, Memorial Day seems geared to a specific group. I don’t often feel a part of it.
I’ve read quite a bit about the Civil War and the two World Wars, but my interest is not in the battlefield. My participation in the Vietnam War was – early on – collecting donations of soap for my parish to send to the soldiers, and – later – in marches of passive protest. I know people that died there, and others that came back forever changed. Even so, I know very little about it, considering that it was a major news event when I was a teen and young adult. I recently watched The Killing Fields. Though the place names were familiar to me, the events had happened while I was paying very little attention.
All of the wars in the Middle East kind of run together for me. So do the countries themselves. When my nephew, Bob, was overseas, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I purchased a world map (actually, a laminated placemat with a world map on it) and hung it in my studio, so that I could get a better idea of where he was. It did little to diminish my ignorance, except in the very short term. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but it’s true. I may tout a strong political opinion; I may do a great deal of hand-wringing over the terrors of war…but I don’t really know much about what is going on.
I was never in the service. My husband was given a “1-Y” (exempt) classification do to a back injury. My father was in the army, though the war was over by the time he got to Germany. His two older brothers were both active in World War II. In my family history, one great-grandfather fought in the Franco-Prussian War; another was shipped off to America at age seventeen, by his mother who wanted him far away from that conflict. At least three of my ancestors fought in the Civil War, and another one died of fever on his way to Grand Rapids to enlist. My nephew, as I said, served in the Middle East.
When my Aunt Katie was more able to get out and about, she and I would plant flowers on the family graves at the cemetery before this holiday. I should do it still, if only for her sake. I should take a bigger interest, anyway, for many good reasons. Of course – though conflicted about war in general – I appreciate the service and understand the sacrifice. For that alone, it’s good to have this day set aside.
I hope this Memorial Day is a good one.