Memorial Day

DSC_0565I just read a Washington Post article by a Marine Corps Veteran, Jennie Haskamp. It was about remembering the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country – 1.3 million lives lost since our first war in 1776.

Decoration Day (now known in the US as Memorial Day) was set aside to decorate the graves of men who had recently died in battle. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan issued a proclamation, General Orders No.11: “The 30th of May would be an occasion to honor those who died in combat.”

Jennie Haskamp left active duty 10 years ago, but she continues to work for the Marine Corps because her friends are still being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  She has other friends whose graves she regularly visits in Section 60, the newest plots at Arlington National Cemetery. And she travels to graves in other cities and towns across this country. As a soldier, she escorted the bodies of fallen comrades and stood watch as grieving families were there to welcome their loved ones home for burial. She’s attended 75 services for people she’s known and she reminds us that over 6,861 American soldiers have died after more than a decade of war since September 11th.  She is afraid they will be forgotten. And she is angry.

Jennie Haskamp is frustrated and saddened by what Memorial Day has evolved into in our United States.  She’s not alone. AlthoughDSC_0577 many Americans understand  it’s a special day put aside to pause and remember those who have died in service to our country, Haskamp asserts,  “It’s the one day on the American calendar meant to exemplify what it costs to be American and to be free…and we’ve turned it into a day off work, a tent sale and a keg of beer.”

That we have!  If you doubt it, just look at the Memorial Day Sales fliers inserted in the Sunday newspaper.  Listen to the ads on TV and radio.  Haskamp, however, has chosen to spend it the way it was intended to be spent – remembering. She will be talking with friends and families of the people who have sacrificed and died to insure our freedom.

She’s has a right to be angry and frustrated and sad. I saw the same frustration when I served in the Army Reserves back in the late 70’s. Most of my fellow reservists were Vietnam Vets. There was  anger and resentment among them for the way they’d been treated when they came home. It was a low point in our country and a difficult time to look back on.

And now we are fifteen years, two wars, 6,861 (and growing) casualties, thousands more wounded and scarred from our latest military actions. Not much cause for a picnic. “When will we ever learn? Oh,when will we, ever learn?”DSC_0566

 

 

 

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50 thoughts on “Memorial Day

      1. I’ve been following bloggers who are doing this challenge and making sure I follow it in my own way each day. there is a national world day of kindness, I believe, in the Fall. I’ll have to find out more about it. Thanks, Bernadette. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

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  1. I have been fortunate. My dad came home from WWII, deaf brothers excused from Vietnam. I will be thinking of the families who have given so much.

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  2. It’s a sad fact that we forget more easily than we remember. In the UK, there is no day at all set aside. There is Armastice of course on 11/11 and we have acts of rememberance but no public holiday as in France and much of Europe and indeed here in the US. But for those days to have relevance and meaning, it is important for people to stop and think ‘what does that mean’ and in this increasingly diffident world it seems that taking a shallow consumer based approach to all things is the easy fix. Far harder to remember. But I promise tomorrow I shall. Remember the millions who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who were more fortunate in returning home but in what shape? I will remember. And I will continue to learn.

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    1. Yes, I will, too. And I try never to forget the families torn apart every day by the wars in which we are still involved. It is no way to run a country – no way to run a world. Thanks, Osyth and I’m glad to hear from you. Your voice was missed. Clare

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      1. Thank you for missing me, Clare. I echo every word you say …. I simply cannot understand war. It has never been the answer and will never be the answer.

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      1. Hariod I fear you do misunderstand. Firstly I should stress that I am British and lived most of my life there so feel reasonably qualified to comment on UK public (bank) holidays. Whilst it is true that Remembrance is a Sunday and Armistice 11/11 they are generally rolled together in public consciousness. The U.K. has fewer public holidays than most and it is a generally held irritation that there is nothing between late August and Christmas. I have long suggested that, given a reluctance in what is now a multi-cultural nation to pick for instance All Saints or Halloween that the obvious day would be the Monday closest to the Armistice to celebrate and remember as a nation those who have given service in order to maintain Peace and defend our shores. One other point is that in fact in France if for instance Toussain falls on a Saturday or Sunday it’s just bad luck – no day off from school
        Though all will remember their dead and place chrysanthemums in the cemeteries. Giving an opportunity at least encourages people to remember.

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      2. It sounds as though you’re far better qualified to comment on this than me, Osyth! Still, when you said “In the UK, there is no day at all set aside”, it appears you were meaning no working day set aside, which is quite true, albeit that many work on (Remembrance)Sundays too, of course. We agree in the sentiments expressed, and I apologise if I appeared pedantic on their means of expression. 🙂

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      3. Dear Osyth and Hariod – In America, someone, somewhere, somehow decided to take most of our holidays and just assign them all to Mondays – long weekends being the priority as opposed to authenticity. The 4th of July (that would have been a tough one to alter every year) and Thanksgiving escaped. It’s still on a Thursday. But then that means a four-day weekend which led to one of our most abysmal creations (the day after Thanksgiving) BLACK FRIDAY! The biggest shopping day of the year; a time when people camp outside stores so that they can be first in line when the stampede begins for sale items the next morning. And some stores actually stay open on Thanksgiving, but thankkfully, people have objected to workers not being able to spend time with their families. Some businesses have stopped this practice under threat of bad publicity and boycotts. Ah, we have it all over you Brits! Take care, both of you and Happy Friday! Your friend, Clare

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  3. I can’t get away from the fact that it’s our kids that our fighting in these wars. All their hopes, their dreams and their bravery fed into a machine which doesn’t care enough for them or their families.

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    1. I have always believed that no one under the age of 25 should ever be sent into a war zone. I was 28 when I joined the reserves and I could think for myself.I always hoped that when women became more involved in the military, things would change. I haven’t seen this yet.

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      1. I was one of the first women high school principals when it was almost all men and now twenty five years later, women administrators are the norm. It has to start somewhere and think in education, it has been for the best. In the areas of politics and the military here in the US, that change has been much slower. We shall see. But I do feel women’s views and perspectives in all areas (particularly highly institutionalized settings) can only be for the best.

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  4. Such a compelling cal to remembrance. I’m so proud of my church for always having a memorial of some kind.
    Today it was a video, voiced by Ronald Reagan, on remembering those who gave all for freedom!
    Not everyone has forgotten!

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    1. You’re welcome, Anna. Yes, it seems that everything from national holidays to religious holidays and all the other days in between in this country get turned into a big sale or a ploy for us buying something someone is trying to shove down our throats. I’ve come to celebrate special times in my own quiet way and it has resulted in more appreciation for the meaning of the honor or the celebration and much less stress. Thank you for leaving your thoughtful comment. I appreciate it. Clare

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    1. Thank you, Yvette. We’ll never be able to make up for the heartache, but at least for one day we can honor the families. I saw a photo on a friend’s face book page today that is still haunting me. A blanket is spread out on a soldier’s grave and a young woman lies there with her infant. A baby who will never know his dad. I can’t get it out of my mind.

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    1. Eugenia – I really am conscious of this now – more so than in my younger days. (Maybe it wasn’t so bad then.) I try to make the holidays I celebrate quiet and friend and family-oriented. It’s the only way I can deal with all the commercialization.

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  5. Thank you, Claremary for your thoughtful and well-written post on this subject. It has indeed become hard to remember our “solemn obligation” to our fallen soldiers as Admiral Nimitz called it when the overriding cultural message is that Memorial Day is the party gateway to summer. Instead, I’d like to see it as a day for prayers or prayerful meditations that we’ll one day arrive at a time when we add to the list of the fallen no more.

    PS. I’ve nominated your blog for the One Lovely Blog Award, should you be so inclined to accept. https://practicallywise.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/fellow-lovelies/

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    1. Hello, Nancy, I’ve been away for a few days and when I returned, I found your thoughtful note and your nomination. I’ll be visiting blogs tomorrow, once I settle back in and I’ll make sure you’re site is first on the list. Clare

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  6. Living in the UK, I only started to hear about Memorial Day in the US since joining WP. I’d no idea it was now a commercial enterprise. How sad and disrespectful. I’d assumed it was a day spent in quiet remembrance and solemnity. For many years in a town in the UK everyone would form a line of remembrance for deceased troops as they came back and were driven off the base. This meant each time a new deceased member was repatriated then it was shown on national TV. It was a spontaneous reaction from the local populace started by one older ex-army man. However, the government did not like the reminder it gave to the population that troops were actually being killed so they changed the location. Very sad.

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    1. Many times in our towns and cities, when a soldier who has died in combat is returned home, people line the sidewalks as the family brings their loved one home. It has happened a here in RI. The saddest one I remember was a beautiful 21 year-old woman named Holly Charrette who had joined the National Guard to help get a better education. She was killed by a roadside bomb that blew up the vehicle she was riding in. I will never forget her parent’s faces on the local news that week. I love how the local populace reacted to their deceased soldiers in the UK. Hearts are broken by wars everywhere but our countries keep sending young people to fight. And it is sad that the governments who are sending want to “save us” all from this heartbreak by keeping the reminders to a minimum. It is very sad, Annika. Thank you for your comment and adding more insight into this subject. Clare

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  7. A very sobering piece.. but one which should be written and noted. Its a difficult position between Americans and Brits and our perspective on who has helped who ( the more). However that aside I feel your friend Jennie has the right attitude. You/she is right. Too often now people see it as an excuse not to work and kick back and be self serving. That is not what it is about and never was. Whatever the rights or wrongs of War and which Wars have been unnecessary we should all think about those who were lost and the families they left behind. It is indeed a time to reflect and give thanks to those people who perhaps did not have a choice – who died alone and scared and who leave their scars with their loved ones
    if anyone decides to mark this day by getting lashed and finding no times for reflection then a pox on them
    and whilst it would never happen – maybe they need to walk just a mile in those other people’s shoes

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    1. I answered a comment to another blogger and told her about a young woman, Holly Charrette, from a nearby town. She joined the National Guard to help her in getting a better education. She died a few years ago when a bomb exploded under the vehicle she was riding in. I didn’t know her personally or her family, but I still cry whenever I think of her and I remember her beautiful face on the nightly news. It breaks my heart to remember her parents walking behind her casket into the church. Perhaps we should get rid of all these holidays and institute a moment of silence and reflection every day for those who have served and are still serving?

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      1. Sadly a moment of reflection every day wont do it. People will absorb it and forget to do it. As you know, Brits do a 1 mins silence on 11th November. Other European countries do likewise. Does the States? I remember being at Heathrow Airport once when it was 11am and they asked everyone to be silent. Everyone stopped save for an Arab couple who continued to converse even though they could see everyone else had stopped. Even if they didn’t understand the message, they could see the airport had, essentially, frozen in time. A minute is a long time when you are standing there self consciously and after it was over, I , fuelled with much anger, went over to them and gave them a piece of my mind. ( they understood). A man next to me said ” don’t waste your breath. Its not their war we were fighting”. Sad… very sad

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      2. Yes, I read about the time of silence. I think it’s a beautiful idea. We don’t have anything similar here in the US although we have had moments of silence on the anniversaries of the World Trade Tower bombing

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  8. A thoughtful and sensitively written post. So many of us abhor the futility of war, but it never seems to end. The commercialism of such important days as this, intended to remember and honour those who’ve lost their lives for their country, is shocking. Unfortunately, there are always people ready to make money, even at times like this. Thank you for sharing this, Clare. As others have said, I had assumed it was a quiet day of remembrance for you all over there.

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    1. Millie, We are a nation of people looking to make a buck! A Corporatocracy modeled after Sodom and Gomorra. I certainly do my fair-share of shopping to keep the economy going, but the lack of boundaries on appropriate and inappropriate in this area have been crossed too often and obliterated. There are no longer acceptable behaviors in the USofA when it comes to the almighty $$$$$$. Everything is up for grabs.

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  9. Not in defense, but perhaps in explication, people cannot mourn what they personally have not lost. I served in peace time so there are no bitter war wounds of lost friends. But if you have met and said farewell to a soldier, then it is real. Then the holiday has significance. It is a bitter fellowship that brings together the truly bereaved. In this, perhaps it is best the uninformed and uncaring spend their time elsewhere and let the friends of the fallen grieve in peace.

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    1. Yes, I take your point and then I think about it and I say “They are very fortunate” , those who have not lost a loved one. But to excuse the fortunate is to admit they have lost their compassion; their empathy as humans living together on this earth. “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Donne) And it is a bitter pill to watch as people turn a day of remembrance into one of shopping and bargains. They need to be reminded of priorities – that it is primarily a day of respect for people who died for others to be free. Two years ago, at this time, we were in Normandy. The silence that pervades the American burial ground at all times of day or night, even by those who do not know a soul resting there, speaks volumes. 50 people were just murdered in Orlando, Florida. I don’t know one of them, but each loss is a great one on many levels. It speaks loudly of our values as human beings and our values as a country. I once made excuses for the ignorant, but I don’t any more. I’m not sure when I changed or what it was that finally made me really think about my beliefs. Ignorance is not deserving of any bliss. I thank you for your input on this. Clare

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