Memorial Day is a day for especially remembering all those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, in all the wars – more than 1,000,000 according to an article I read yesterday.
Of course, this being America, we’ve also turned it into the first long weekend of summer, a time for big sales at the stores and a variety of other things, but the solemn reason for the day remains.
I have a small Memorial Day story to share, not really so much about the military (although if you Follow me on twitter, you know I very much Support Our Troops and Veterans and their families). When I was a little girl, we lived in upstate New York, a very rural area. Veterans would come to our school to sell the little red crepe paper poppies (at least that’s what I remember the flowers being made of).
My Dad was a World War II Army vet and he made sure I knew the reason behind the poppies and the sacrifices so many had made to keep us all free.
But there was no local cemetery where we could go place flowers or drape small flags to show our respect for the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces. One year we were out hiking in the local countryside and discovered a tiny, long abandoned graveyard. The headstones were all toppled, some were defaced, and the weeds and brush had taken over the area. We found no sign of a house nearby, not even a ruin. The names were illegible for the most part but the last name appearing on so many of the stones made it clear this had been a family plot.
My Dad was active in local politics, the VFW and other organizations and he asked around but no one knew of this family. (I’m sorry to say the last name has long fled my memory – I was pretty young!) So that year, for Memorial Day, my parents, grandparents and I went back out to the cemetery. The adults mowed and weeded, straightened headstones, and put a small fence around the perimeter. We discovered another twelve graves, stretching further into the edge of the forest, before we were done. The last date we noted on any of the headstones was somewhere in the mid 1800’s.
Many of the plots were the last resting place of young children, occasionally a mother and a child, buried together. While the adults worked, I gathered wildflowers and decorated as many of the graves as I could. Having the active imagination of a writer even then, I told myself all kinds of stories about the adventures this extended family must have had, the things they saw.
For the next few years we went back every Memorial Day and paid our respects to that long gone family by caring for their last resting place. But then my Dad was transferred to Alabama, and we never went back. I suppose the forest has completely taken over the area by now, the way nature does.
I still remember the extended family every year at this time, although sadly, not by name and not individually.
Even if you don’t personally know any members of the Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom, please take a moment today to think of the men and women who have bravely given so much on our behalf. Thank you.