On this Memorial Day
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~From a headstone in Ireland, via quotegarden
Two years ago, I wrote a post for Memorial Day that I’ve never been able to top. The words came straight from my soul via my heart, and nothing I’ve written since about our veterans — living and dead — and their sacrifices has matched it. In fact, everything I’ve tried to write about Memorial Day since then has been pretty much the same thing, just dressed a little differently.
This is the 5th Memorial Day we have celebrated since El Pollo Loco and his band of minions started an unjustified war. 4082 Americans have died to accomplish a “mission” brought to them by a lying government, a cheerleading press, and a profiteering corporate structure.
I could write something about the troops who have valiantly served our nation – even when our government has chosen to turn its collective back to those who protect and defend her – but it would simply be a derivative of These Honored Dead:
[...] Servicemen and women do not choose their battles, they do not choose their enemies. They are told where to go and what to do by leaders that may or may not have their best interests at heart, by leaders who may or may not have seen combat themselves. And they do the very best they can, under circumstances the rest of us will never be able to comprehend.
My problem is not, and never has been, with the men and women in uniform. It is with those who send those men and women into harm’s way without valid reason, without proper equipment and supplies. It is with those who scream themselves hoarse about supporting the troops, but cut veterans benefits in wartime and order them – in America’s name – to violate international law and their own moral code.
It is those who mistreat the American soldier while calling the rest of us unpatriotic.
What I’d like to address today is not the many sacrifices made by our military and their families. There are many fine places on the web which have excellent tributes today to the men and women who serve.
Instead, I’d like to talk about something else that’s related to Memorial Day. The lack of respect and understanding for our nation’s symbols.
This is a small town, one of those places where you’d almost automatically think, “Mom and apple pie.” Many of our area residents have served or are serving in the military. We have a strong tradition of being there when our country calls. We still have parades on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Our local supermarket’s window boasts pictures of currently-serving service personnel. Once a week, the papers prints all the addresses of those locals who are serving, so people can write and remind them of home, keep them up-to-date on local affars, keep their spirits up. A local group bakes cookies and another collects personal hygiene items for our troops.
So you would assume this is a place where the flag and symbols of our nation and of our veterans’ service are universally respected and treated with dignity.
You’d be wrong. I myself have been stunned again and again by the absolute lack of caring when it comes to these things. It’s not just that people don’t know, it’s that they don’t care to learn.
There was an incident locally that brought this to mind yet again. A cemetery’s caretakers — for whatever reasons, and there are plenty of pointing fingers and loads of excuses — after setting a policy that no “ornaments or decorations” would be allowed at gravesites, removed all the veterans’ markers from the cemetery. These are the markers on which American flags are placed prior to certain holidays – Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, and Veterans’ Day.
Worse yet, these markers were thrown – along with the various “ornaments and decorations” that were stripped from each and every final resting place – into a trash pile in a field across the road.
I am horrified by all of it. To have taken these small mementos at someone’s grave and simply dumped them?
But I am especially angry about the veterans’ markers. My father, his brothers, and my paternal grandfather are buried there, and all were veterans. I’m glad I was not one of those who discovered this horror. I cannot imagine my reaction to seeing the symbols of my family’s service ripped out and tossed in the garbage.
Would someone please explain to me how on earth it is possible for someone to not understand the deep meaning and symbolic value of those markers, to not understand that they are not merely “ornaments and decorations?”
Thankfully, due to enormous efforts by the VFW and the Legion to remap the cemetery and place new markers – each and every veteran’s grave has once again been properly marked.
Sadly, however, this is not an isolated incident. Far, far too many people have no understanding of true patriotism, and they certainly have no understanding of flag etiquette and respect.
Do we blame the schools for failing to teach students the value and meaning behind our flag? The government for failing to live up to the standards of conduct written in the Constitution and for forcing schools to cut geography and history and civics classes in order to teach to meet the standards of the NLCB tests? The media for promoting false patriotism over true debate? All of the above?
How many times have you attended an event and seen almost no one under 40 remove their hats and/or stand for the Anthem? How many times have you seen a ripped and tattered flag on a flag pole? Or seen a flag flying at night with no uplighting? Or a cotton flag flying in the rain?
Last year, I had to call harass the local Walmart for three weeks straight because they were flying the flag in darkness. The reason? The lights had malfunctioned/burned out/didn’t work, and — with the exception of a few people (including my sister) – no one cared. The first three days, the lady who answered the phone was all pleasant and reassuring, “Oh my! We’ll certainly take care of that! Thank you so much for alerting us to this!” Too bad that was her whole reaction. It wasn’t until I spoke to my sister later that I discovered my concerns hadn’t been passed on at all. So I started annoying them. Every. single. night.
Another night, my sister went into work and watched three employees drop two American flags on the floor after they’d been used for Independence Day decorations. Dropped them on the floor. (If you don’t understand why anything in the last three paragraphs is a problem, google “American flag etiquette” or “US Flag Code.”)
This Memorial Day, take time to honor our nation’s veterans of all wars, but also take some time out from the grill and the gardening and the various summer projects you might have to educate someone on the Flag and its handling. Speak up on the proper ways to honor our nation’s heroes, past and present. Talk to your children about why our national symbol and those who died for it must be held in the highest regard and treated with the highest respect.