Memorial Day 2018

In contrast to those who call themselves “survivors” for having endured the trauma of sad feelings, Memorial Day honors those who did not survive. They couldn’t be fixed by Play-Doh or a comfort gerbil. They gave their lives. it’s been my tradition to offer a Memorial Day post over the years, and there’s no reason to break the tradition today.

In a town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island, they hold a parade on Memorial Day. It’s old school, marching bands and little league teams. And a few old cars with vets and prom queens waving at the crowd while the local men’s club hands out little American flags and lollipops to the kids. It’s quite charming if there’s still room in your dark heart for American tradition.

Every year, I drove the 1964 Healey BJ8 to the parade with my son in the navigator’s seat. As we watched the parade, he saw some classic cars and had an epiphany. “Dad, we should be in the parade!” I grabbed his arm and said “let’s go.”

The Healey was parked on a side street off the parade route, very close to the grassy knoll where we were sitting. The parade took a curious route, doubling back on itself from a street across from the high school to its starting point. As it happened, the streets were the same.

We jumped into the Healey and revved it up. As the old cars were approaching, I pulled the Healey into a gap between a pipe and drum corps and the lead car. Nobody said anything. Nobody minded. I don’t think anybody even noticed. And suddenly, we were in the parade.

My son did the wave as we drove slowly through the adoring crowd.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun on Memorial Day, a barbecue, some beer perhaps, and a ride in a parade that reminds us that there were people who never returned from war. Whether it’s fair to say they died so we could do any of these things is arguable, but keeping Memorial Day distinct and appreciating America traditions, allows us to pause and remember those who aren’t “survivors.”

10 thoughts on “Memorial Day 2018

  1. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    Forgive the personal remembrance.

    On this Memorial Day, I have been thinking a lot about my old boss, mentor, and dear friend Judge Donald R. Ross. Judge Ross served for many years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He is gone now.

    Judge Ross was a bombardier, and later a lead bombardier, during WW II. He flew with the 306th Bomb Group. He served two tours, although he didn’t’ have to serve the second tour and was said to be nuts for volunteering to do so. Flying nearly 50 missions, the judge was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In fact, he received that citation twice. The Cross is awarded for “Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” The judge was a genuine war hero whose humility about his serve was evident.

    When on the few occasions he talked about his service, he spoke of the young men on the ground and the terrible sacrifices they were making. Despite a severally injured spinal column from flack exploding just beneath his turret, he thought he had it easy.

    All the best.

    RGK

    1. SHG Post author

      My father was 86th infantry, Blackhawk Battalion. His worst memory wasn’t the bullets entering his body or the sight of friends dead, but of the weeks of freezing cold that seemed as if they would never end. I don’t believe I would have been as strong.

      1. B. McLeod

        I think the “Blackhawks” moniker was for the whole division. They hit the front in February of ’45, so, dismal weather indeed. One of my uncles who went in on D-Day said that winter of ’44-’45 was a nasty one. They lost some people to the cold, which could be as dangerous as enemy action. Of course, in the end, nobody gets out of this world alive, but I suppose the departed continue to have influence so long as anyone remembers them or remembers things that they chose to pass on.

      2. JRP

        Memorial day to me is remembering the fallen by thinking of them while enjoying the little things they no longer can. Be it a parade, bbq or just time with friends and family.

        Many times the difference between death and a story you share with your buddies is determination or luck. Different luck and your father may not have returned, and the judge would be out a mentor and friend. The downstream impact reaching all those you have ever helped or mentored.

        If they died so we can enjoy these things may be debatable depending on the conflict and your point of view. However most who go into conflicts hope if they must sacrifice others will fight to preserve their way of life for future generations. That in some way it will manner, that people will be inspired by their example and come to the nations defense. Either on the battlefield, in the courthouse, or in the legislative chamber.

        1. Morgan O.

          I like that about the American Memorial Day. Remembrance Day (I am Canadian) has its place, and our traditions of raising a few (read: many) glasses on that day still has a strongly melancholy tone. But I definitely like the idea of taking a day to enjoy what our nations are, paid for by the sacrifices of our friends. I can’t speak for all veterans, but I think most of us want our friends and family to have a good parade, or barbecue, or even just a day off work.

    2. Morgan O.

      I definitely appreciate the sentiment of your mentor. I think we all feel we had it easy compared to the ones who didn’t make it. We must have- else why would we still be alive when they aren’t?

  2. SamS

    None of us think we will be good enough or strong enough until we look back and realize we were.

    1. SHG Post author

      I wonder about this, whether it’s still true or what we want to believe. I hope we are never forced to find out.

  3. John Barleycorn

    A carburetor rebuilt will glow in in your grandson’s hands as your son joins the flow.

    Dull metallic war.

    Same as it ever was!

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