Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day

I’m not so sure the Russians have it wrong. Their May 9th Victory Day observance is somewhat similar to our Memorial Day. It is also known as “the holiday with tears in our eyes.” The main purpose of Victory Day was the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWI where 27 million soviets died. During their observances Red Square is taken over by a parade of 20,000 soldiers and 100 vehicles as well as aircraft. The uneducated see it as a way of parading their military prowess before the world and putting on display what they have to destroy all enemies. I see it as a proper way of honoring the holiday.

How seriously do we take it here??

We get the 4th Monday off in May (as near to May 30th as we sometimes can get) with the purpose of celebrating the soldiers who have died in the service of the country. This 3, or sometimes, even 4 day weekend is seen as the official “kickoff” of the summer season where people hit the beaches and barbecue everything in the refrigerator.  Sadly, many people don’t even know the distinction between Memorial Day being to honor the dead and Veterans Day in November honors all who have served in the military during time of war and peace.

Comedian Heywood Banks shot an arrow right through the bullseye on this one.   His short 56 second song about Memorial Day comes off as being funny, (and is truly ironic that such a serious message is coming from a comedian) but it actually should make you think about how we actually celebrate Memorial Day and how we perceive ourselves as celebrating Memorial Day.

Please Listen here  ——> Heywood Banks on Memorial Day

I was disgusted by one ad I found on the internet which so proudly read, “The federal government gave you Monday off to celebrate those who have died for our military.  But that’s no reason you can’t spend Memorial Day weekend hitting the sales too!  There’s nothing quite as patriotic as boosting our nation’s economy, am I right?”

First they didn’t die for the military.  They died for America… for our freedom…. the freedom so you (and I ) have the right to do what we want to.  Even if that means spending money on mattresses and tires, you have the right as an American to do that and I have the right to complain about how retailers capitalize on it.  It’s not only today.  I know that people will put on a sale for just about anything in order to get business.  My take is that I just wish people would take it more seriously sometimes and not try to polarize everything in a political way such as, “I’m against the war in Iraq so I’m not celebrating Memorial Day.”

This last video I want to share is a bit longer.  Vice President Joe Biden is speaking before a gold star audience of people who have lost a loved one in the military.  I find it to be very encouraging. (There might be a short ad you have to sit through first)

VP Biden Speech for T.A.P.S  

Uncle Sam


11-11-11 and then add “On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in Great War”, makes this year’s Veterans’ Day is one of those rare numerical calendar dates where all kinds of people expect cosmic changes both good and bad. I just wanted to reflect on the time when I lived in Washington DC in 2006, I took advantage of my surroundings to celebrate Veterans Day, provide some pictures as a remembrance and to give a few details on the specifications of the memorials. (And in a place like the nation’s capital…. How could you not!) It was a weekend so I was off of work. I headed out with my camera, back pack and a good pair of walking shoes.


I started out first at what I knew would be the emotionally hardest memorial and that was the Vietnam Wall. They had a stage set up for an array of oratories by veterans and family members. If you have ever been there before you know that the wall is sort of sunken into the ground so it appears in some of the pictures below that people are actually standing on the top of the wall, but it is actually flat ground. “Inscribed in the wall are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who were killed in the Vietnam War or who are still missing in action. A diamond next to the name indicates the person was killed, a cross indicates the person is missing. If a body is identified, the cross is circled.”

Not too far away is the memorial for Korea. This has 19 lifelike American soldiers making their way through the rough terrain of Korea. The statues stand about 7 feet tall & represent various branches of the armed forces including 14 Army personnel, 3 Marines, 1 Navy, and 1 Air Force; & represent an ethnic cross section of 14 Caucasians, 3 African-Americas, 2 Hispanics, 1 Oriental, and 1 Native American. Their wall is different from the Vietnam wall because instead of names there are faces etched in the marble. Designed from 15,000 photographs of various aspects of the war, surgeons, nurses, chaplains, and stretcher bearers looking forward into the eyes of the statues, crews building bridges, airfield construction, supply centers, radio communications officers, reporters and even canine corps.

From what I see, the WWII memorial is the most popular. It is by far the largest and has a variety of eye catching features such as the fountains, stone wreaths, stone etched quotes, and of course the 4,043 gold stars, with one star for each 100 soldiers who died.

I would have liked to have been at Arlington Cemetery for the President’s wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I did visit the site later on in the day. They were changing the wreaths on nearly an hourly basis.