Memorial Day 2012
Memorial Day 2012 by Gary Williams.
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Updated: May 16, 2011
Memorial Day 2012
Many of us can remember back to our childhood and our local Memorial Day events of days gone by. As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded that as a young Cub Scout in Upper Sandusky, Ohio our duty began on the Tuesday before Memorial Day. At our weekly Den meeting our Den Mother would give us the history of Memorial Day and reminded us of our obligation to meet at the St. Paul Lutheran Church on Friday immediately after school in full uniform. At the church we were driven to the one of the local cemeteries to place flags at the graves of every veteran.
In the mid-60’s America was at war in a place called Viet Nam but to many of us
in our small town, it was a place we could hardly pronounce and certainly knew
nothing about. During the drive to the cemetery our scout leader reinforced the
history of Memorial Day. Upon arrival at our destination, we were each given a
six-inch wooden ruler and instructed to place the flag in the special flag
holder exactly six inches in from the headstone. After placing the flag properly
we took two steps back, read the name of the veteran aloud and gave the Boy
Scout hand salute. Scout leaders and senior scouts “supervised” to ensure that
our duties were conducted accurately and reverently. At the cemetery our leaders
gave instructions in a hushed voice.
On Memorial Day local police and fire department vehicles with their lights
flashing and the occasional yelps of the sirens led the parade of county local
high school bands, convertibles with former prisoners of war waving to cheering
crowds and younger veterans marched smartly behind. Boy and Girl Scout troops
followed by the cub and brownie scouts made the annual pilgrimage that assembled
at a local automobile dealership.
To me, it looked like the entire town of 5,000 had lined the parade route that
proceeded south on North Sandusky Avenue for one-half mile to the town square
then turned left onto West Wyandot Avenue and proceeded one mile down the hill
to the Harrison Smith Park and the Veterans Memorial.
Our Uncles Robert and Ivan served in World War II and my siblings and I knew
that our father was a Korean War veteran, but none of us really understood its
significance. After his five children had grown and he and my mother were ‘empty
nesters,’ both served in the local color guard and for many years Dad served as
commander and presided at dozens of military funerals. We were reared with the
near-reverent respect for those who wear and have worn the uniform of our
nation—a lesson I have never forgotten.
This year marks the second anniversary of my father’s death. In addition to my
large American flag proudly displayed, several additional smaller flags will be
prominently displayed in flower urns on my front porch.
I will make the 150-mile drive to Oak Hill Cemetery in Upper Sandusky and place
a memorial wreath at my father’s grave; admire the new American and Army flags
in their bronze holders placed by today’s cub scouts. As I do, I will probably
shed a tear or two as I remember those fond memories of him and of the Memorial
Days long since passed while acknowledging the hundreds of memorial flags at the
graves of other defenders of freedom.
Throughout our national history, approximately one percent of each generation
has answered the call to military service. They liberated Europe, defended
people they had never met and countries they had never visited, and since
September 2001 defended us those who would do us harm here at home.
This Memorial Day, let us take a few minutes from our family gatherings to remember those who fill our national cemeteries here at home and those hundreds of thousands who repose in the foreign lands for which they fought many known but to God.
Let us keep “Memorial” in Memorial Day by remembering and following General John
Logan’s General Order No. 11 issued on May 5, 1868, “…gather around their sacred
remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of
springtime…let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist
those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s
gratitude–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”
Thanks Dad, and thank you to all those who defend freedom.