Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day,” began as a time for our nation to come together and honor the sacrifices of those who died in war with flowers and flags. Today, the word “decorate” suggests those countless DYI programs about decorating a home, not a grave. But not to worry, our local Boy Scouts have placed American flags on the graves of every military veteran buried in our county cemeteries. Also, the 29th Division Association has put division flags on the graves of all 29ers. Just a bit of history…that division, whose lineage predates the Revolutionary War, fought in WWI and WWII, spearheading the D-Day invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach (www.29infantrydivision.org). Yes, decoration is good, but education is also in order. It seems that today many citizens, especially young people, are rather fuzzy on the history of the wars and conflicts fought by the U.S. So, maybe a history lesson, even a geography lesson, might be useful. Goggle if you must, but books and a globe are better sources of information. But even movies can educate. Ones like “The Longest Day”, “Tora, Tora, Tora”, and “Saving Private Ryan” can at least stimulate interest in military history. The local Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA Chapter 142) strives yearlong to educate citizens about that bloody conflict (www.KWVA.org). The Veterans History Project (www.LOC.gov) has thousands of interviews of veterans, as does our local group (FCVHP) whose interviews are in the Maryland Room at the C. Burr Artz Library. But what trumps all, is hearing about history from those who have lived it. There are still WWII veterans around who carry vivid memories of that war. They might be your neighbors or your grandfather. The letters of a forgotten uncle who still lies on foreign shores might still be in the attic. Search these out…you will learn more that you ever imagined.
What better way to memorialize the sacrifices of our fallen warriors, those who gave their “last full measure,” than not only to decorate their graves, but to educate all our citizens so that everyone knows where, when and why Americans died serving their country. Yes, let us decorate AND educate this Memorial Day, 2012.
May 28, 2012