History, Patriot, War

Memorial Day, 2023

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the USA.  The approved Memorial Day for 2023 is Monday, May 29, although my mother-in-law never called the actual day anything but Decoration Day, and never commemorated it on any day other than May 30 in any given year.  Unfortunately, in 1971, as part of a mad rush at the time to encourage long weekends for “the workers” (similar to the many UK “bank holidays”) over the course of the year, Congress declared “Memorial Day” a federal holiday to occur on the last Monday in May. Washington’s birthday suffered a similar fate, and has since undergone the ignominy of being combined with Lincoln’s birthday into the anodyne “Presidents’ Day” (third Monday in February each year).

Memorial Day has an interesting history, and yet its essence is simple and can be distilled as follows: Let us remember, in all the ways we can, those members of the United States Armed Forces who’ve given their all so that we may live in peace and freedom. One of the ways we do that, in context and with love and appreciation in our hearts, is to enjoy the day with our family and friends. We may attend community and church events. Often, we picnic and have fun. Sometimes we mourn a personal and private loss. But always, we remember and are thankful that such men and women lived.**

I was first introduced to “Memorial Day” in the mid-1960s. We had moved from the UK and were living in a Pittsburgh suburb, where Memorial Day–on whatever day of the week May 30 occurred–was commemorated each year with a huge block party. I don’t know if they’re such a big deal anymore, but at the time they were very popular get-togethers, and it seemed as though every neighbor and resident, and almost all male family members (and a few women, too), had been actively engaged in the war effort (Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and even a few WWI veterans), many of them in combat. And everyone had relatives and friends who’d died in battle. The party itself was always a pleasant and cheerful event, a day of fellowship and tradition, the start of summer, the day the community swimming pools opened, but it was also a time of somber reflection and remembrance, of flags displayed and of prayer, and of appreciation for those who had paid a price, sometimes with their bodies, sometimes with their souls, so that we and our families could enjoy the day peacefully and freely. The annual Memorial Day picnics were one of the events that bound us together as friends and neighbors, and as part of a common culture and community.

I remember–in my first years in the United States–being fascinated by the Memorial Day picnic food. Who on earth ever thought of serving potatoes and eggs cold as a sort of salad? Or something called “macaroni salad?” Cole slaw? Good grief. Hot dogs. Hamburgers. Chicken wings (what did they do with the rest of the bird, I used to wonder, and feel sorry for so many flightless chickens). I’d never eaten any of it before. Kool-Aid for the kids to drink (cheap and cheerful). Ugh. Iron City beer for the men. Pop for the ladies. Coffee later on. And the desserts! I’d never seen so many. Cakes and cookies galore.

I have to confess to a sweet tooth and a soft spot for desserts, so although I can’t remember the first time I came across it, I’ll give special mention here to one of my favorites–that pretzel, strawberry, Cool Whip concoction. I know that, in theory at least, it’s rather revolting. But I love it so.

I don’t have the doings for it at the moment.  But next time I go shopping, I’ll pick them up and make a batch for old times’ sake.

A safe and blessed Memorial Day to you and yours. I remember. And I am truly thankful for those who’ve gone before and those who serve today.

**Many years ago, I wrote a post on another site about my fond memories of Memorial Day picnics, and was taken severely to task (mostly by those who’d never served, IIRC) for my flippant attitude to the day.  Their protests were quashed by a late friend, a US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel, who remarked that he and his brothers had served–and that some had died–exactly so that their countrymen and fellow lovers of freedom could live our lives in safety, community and happiness, and so that I could write the post that I had.  I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ll never forget him.  Thank you.  May you be resting in the peace that you have so dearly bought and earned.

1 thought on “Memorial Day, 2023”

  1. An excerpt from a conversation with my darling Auntie Pat, several years before she died, on the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, and WRT Donald Trump’s appearance at the commemoration service:

    “Oh, yes,” I said. And he seems to have done pretty well, don’t you think?”

    And here’s how it went from there:

    Auntie Pat: Well, yes. Except for those stupid people stomping about waving things. Makes me furious, because, you know, they’re all sitting pretty because of the fact that America came into the war. If it hadn’t been for the Americans, we shouldn’t be here.

    RWKJ: Right.

    Auntie Pat: Well, it’s true.

    RWKJ: Yes, I know.

    Auntie Pat: We had not enough troops. I mean, there’s no argument about it. It makes me very cross. I mean, here’s the elected member of the, umm, society, and so he should be treated with respect. He may say stupid things sometimes, but he read quite a nice thing actually, which was quite good, and he did very well, and he’s coming home tomorrow, isn’t he?

    Auntie Pat. Right, as usual.

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