I felt properly chastened yesterday while reading Memorial Day posts. There were many about the true meaning of Memorial Day. They were poignant and moving. It was an honor to read them. And it is sobering to know that loss continues on our behalf so we can enjoy time with our families and friends.
The meaning of Memorial Day in my corner has been shifting for over fifty years. It used to be a day for gathering for picnics in the cemetery and honoring the fallen. Now it has beome a day to honor the dead. All dead. Fallen dead or not. It has a much more generic tone. Whether this is a good thing, I do not know. It is what it is.
Yes, in our town, the band still played, the old soldiers still marched, the wreath honoring the sailors was tossed from the bridge, and the flags were placed in Soldiers' Row. We are honored with a soldier from almost every war since the beginning — The Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Civil War, The Spanish American War (Remember The Maine!), WWI and WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. We are blessed that while a few served in Desert Storm, no one from our community paid the ultimate price. The same is true of recent wars and current wars. May it continue.
Truth is that I personally know not one who has lost his/her life in service to this country. I know of many. My aunt lost her fiancé in WWII, my father lost a dozen or more friends in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The boy next door's father was shot down over the Mediterranean in WWII while the boy was still in utero. There's a photo of him as a toddler sitting beside a picture of his father in uniform. I always found that profoundly sad.
This being the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I'd like to report that I have found Hezekiah. We have been looking for him for years and years. He is Nan's great-grandfather. We've followed after him in futile circles in southern Maine and down to Gloucester, Massachusetts. In November, Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife shared that Ancestry.com was allowing everyone to know where their military ancesters were buried. Surprise, surprise, Hezekiah was a decorated Civil War hero buried in the same cemetery as the rest of his family right there in Gloucester. His wife had received a pension after his death, though he had not died during the war.
Last weekend, the local paper said that anyone visiting this registry: http://www.civilwar.nps.gov/cwss/ could find any soldier or sailor who served in the Civil War. So we found Hezekiah again. He served with the 32 Massachusetts Infantry in Company D. We now know that he was at Gettysburg and at the final review of the troops in Washington, D.C. And that is all we know, but it is ever so much more than we knew before.
What honors the fallen more? I dare not say. I can only imagine that if I were one of the fallen, I would like to know that people remembered that the old cliché is true: freedom isn't free. Then I think I'd like to see Old Glory flying high and proud above the land I loved so well. Finally, seeing people enjoy a rousing game of baseball and a hotdog or two would thrill my soul.