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A personal letter to my family on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about here. Do any of you remember the true meaning or the traditions of Memorial Day? I suspect not because as a father I did not teach it to you. Do you know it was originally called “Decoration Day?” Do you know it dates back to 1868?

I was reminded several years ago when Mom and I were visiting a cemetery in Creede, Colorado. It was here that I met an elderly gentleman who was having a hard time carrying a bunch of small American flags in his wrinkled, curled and arthritic hands.  

I, like most Americans, had gotten used to Memorial Day weekend being a time for a mini-vacation. I was in the cemetery because I was searching for Bob Ford’s grave. Bob Ford was the dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard (alias Jesse James).  To me, Memorial weekend had become a weekend that allowed me to spend time selfishly on myself and my family.  I had forgotten what Memorial Day meant until I spoke to the old warrior.

Me – “Hello, this is a nice day, can I ask what you are doing here?”

He – “It’s Decoration Day, son. I am here honoring my heroes.”  He slowly bent to place a small American flag alongside a nearby tombstone.  As he was straightening back up he said, “They can’t be here today to walk in the parade.” It was then that I noticed the flags he was placing were all alongside tombstones representing veterans of past wars. The Creede Cemetery was established in 1890 so there were “heroes” from many wars. I placed a few flags with him as he explained that no one cared anymore about the “heroes” of the past. He mentioned in soft tones and without malice, “People just don’t seem to remember or care about the sacrifices of others so we can have freedom.”  He further explained his role in selling poppies when the VFW had a Poppy Program that raised money for disabled veterans on Memorial Day. He spoke of marching in the Memorial Day parades, of saving the red three-cent postage stamp honoring Ms. Michael and the National Poppy Movement. But most of all he spoke with sadness of being the only person in Creede that ever came out to place the flags on Decoration Day.  

So I ask of you on this Memorial Day to observe in your own way a moment of remembrance and respect and share it with your family so they don’t forget like I had done.   Spend a moment of silence and respect for all the heroes that gave you freedom.

Love, Pops