Indifference to Tradition Unacceptable: A Grateful People Must Never Forget

May 25, 2009

History tells us that Memorial Day, which I remember from my youth as Decoration Day, was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Great Army of the Republic.   It was first observed a few week later when on May 30, 1868, flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate Civil War era soldiers. 

As this nation celebrates Memorial Day 2009 as a day to remember all who have died in our nation’s service, Americans in towns and cities across this land will be gathering to honor their war dead.  My own community of Lake Bluff, IL, located a few miles south of Great Lakes Naval Station, will hold one of many scheduled Memorial Day celebrations in my county of Lake.     

But what about the public interest in observing the traditions that are in keeping with and which capture the spirit embodied in the celebration of Memorial Day?  Is it waining?  Graves of veterans have fallen into disrepair or are ignored.  Little notice is given to proper flag etiquette.  Many Americans falsely believe that Memorial Day is for honoring any and all who have died, not  just those who have died in service to their country.   Many more view Memorial Day as the official start of the summer season, as the time to picnic and to fire up the grill. 

Could it be that the American people are growing indifferent to their history and the role men and women have played in defending this nation from aggressors who have threatened our liberty, security, and way of life?

While there exists in America a segment of society whose views are decidedly anti-war and anti-military, might some of the current lackadaisical response to the celebration of Memorial Day date back to 1971 when Congress passed the National Holiday Act?  This act established Memorial Day as part of a three-day weekend (last Monday in May), changing what had been its traditional May 30th stand alone observance date. 

Ten years ago there was an attempt in both houses of Congress to restore Memorial Day to its traditional May 30th date, but so far there has been no action on the bills.  Might the time be right to call for positive action from our legislators in Congress? 

Congress did take a step in the right direction when it passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution in December of 2000.  This resolution asks all Americans at 3:00 p.m. (local time): “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps.”   http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html 

As good as the National Moment of Remembrance resolution may sound, I have little confidence in its ability to re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, as few Americans seem cognizant of the resolution’s existence with its good intentions.   

When gathering with other Lake Bluffers on its New England-style Village Green this Memorial Day morning, I undoubtedly will be stirred by the patriotic music and spoken words of tribute to fallen heroes in a ceremony arranged by Rudy Iberle, Commander,  Lake Bluff American Legion Post 510. 

Because of Lake Bluff’s close proximity to Great Lakes Naval Station, I will be privileged to hear as guest speaker Colonel Mariano Campos, Jr., USAF MEPCOM and witness the dramatic “Salute to Fallen Comrades” performed with precision by the Marine Air Control Group 48 Firing Detail.  Both are stationed at Great Lakes.

Although it might be tempting to leave behind on Lake Bluff’s Village Green my felt feelings of pride and love of country, doing so would signify a betrayal of my core values and would not serve me or my country well.  

As grateful Americans we owe all men and women who have served, and those presently serving throughout the world, our expressions of gratitude and praise.  They are America’s heroes and national treasures.

These poignant words by Brigitte Gabriel — author, U.S.-based journalist, terrorism expert, and founder of the nonprofit organization ACT! for America — written on behalf of the ACT! for America staff, truly reflect and are worth remembering as we celebrate those who have kept this country safe and who must continue to do so into the future if this nation is to survive.  From Brigitte Gabriel’s, A note of thanks to our military, published May 21 on the ACT! for America website (www.actforamrica.org):    

“And for those who returned in eternal sleep, may your legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over your coffins fertilize the field of patriotism in our nation to raise a new generation built on strength and honor, able and willing to follow in your footsteps when duty calls to defend America.  May your blood not have been shed in vain.  May we prove worthy of your sacrifice.  May we aways honor your parents so they will always know that they are the parents of an American hero.

You are our brave ones, our heroes, and our national treasures.  You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation.  Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world.  Thanks to you, those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.”               

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