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Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020


As many know, Memorial Day (which is being celebrated today), was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971.

According to Wiki, "The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress' change of date within a few years.

"Memorial Day endures as a holiday which most businesses observe because it marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) advocate returning to the original date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address:

"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.

"Starting in 1987 Hawaii's Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, introduced a measure to return Memorial Day to its traditional date. Inouye continued introducing the resolution until his death in 2012."

This fact re switching the date of the holiday may be the reason that a number of Americans seem to have forgotten the true meaning of this solemn day; as poignantly illustrated in the cartoon by Bramhall, seen in the image atop this entry.

I've included it in prior posts here on Blogger.

As a child, I was very sensitive to the solemnity of Memorial Day, having had a father who served in the war, and, therefore, I was thrilled at the prospect to be able to participate in the Memorial Day Parade which marched down Main Street in my hometown. My being allowed to participate in the parade was due to the fact that I was a Brownie, and my troop, because of our service to the community, had been invited to join the commemoration of the solemn day.

My accounting of that experience is the following vignette extrapolated from my book, Imperfect Strangers and I've posted a video re my endeavor which can be viewed within my Vimeo channel as well as my You Tube channel.

The story tells about the consequences of growing up with Monocular vision (among other eye disorders) as well as the affects of being born with Neurofibromatosis in the context of the 1960s and 1970s. Imperfect Strangers begins in child's voice and the following is from one of the early vignettes in my narrative:

"Because I am nearly seven years old, I'm able to join the local Brownie troop. I like my pale brown scout uniform and dark-chocolate-colored cap with an orange design of a Brownie printed on it. Once at a troop meeting I made a papier-mâché puppet and gave it to the Children's Hospital in Chicago. I wanted to give it to them because, after watching President Kennedy's speech at the beginning of this year and hearing his words, 'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,' I wanted to do something.

"Soon after hearing the speech and sending in my puppet, I was notified that my puppet had been chosen to be on The Lee Philip Show, a program that airs during the daytime. The news of my being chosen seems to worry my mother as she expresses to me that she thinks the other children who created puppets will be upset that their handmade toys were not selected. I had thought she'd be pleased for me, but sometimes she acts like it is wrong to succeed.

"I have a lot of badges for arts and crafts and am excited about marching in the Memorial Day Parade. After I put on the sash with all the badges I earned, my mother comes into my room with a yellow cardigan sweater and says I must wear it so I don't catch cold. Maybe she thinks it is wrong that I have so many badges and wants me to cover them. Still, I point out to her that it is a nice sunny day and that I am unlikely to get sick by not wearing a sweater. Unfortunately she won't listen. 

Instead, she shouts at me, insisting that if i want to march in the parade, I have to wear it. I want to cry because my badges won't show if I wear the sweater. For a moment, I daydream about arriving at the parade and setting the sweater on a bench. Then, I imagine marching down Main Street, with people ooh-ing and ah-ing at my badges. In the end though, I wear the dumb sweater because my mother is a troop leader, She will be marching too and I don't want her to hit me. All the girls in my troop laugh at me as we get ready for the procession. They mock me saying that I am a big baby because I have to wear a sweater.

"The next morning my mother wakes me up at six o'clock. She is holding a small, round gray suitcase and tells me that I have to go to the hospital to get my tonsils removed.'The operation is the reason I had you wear a sweater in the parade,' she tells me. Even though there had been no clouds in the sky and the temperature had been over eighty degrees yesterday morning, my mother insists that she, 'hadn't wanted me to catch a chill because the procedure would've been canceled.'

"I realize that she meant well, but I still think she should have told me about the operation before the parade so I could have explained why I had to wear the sweater to the girls in the troop. They probably would have thought I was cool. Instead, they said I was baby.

"As we pack my suitcase for me to take to the hospital, my mother tells me that she needs to stay home with my sisters, so it is my father who takes me to the hospital. When I arrive, I notice that the girl in my room has one of the plant holders that I had made in a Brownie meeting. It is sitting on her nightstand, and I want to tell her that I made it, but I am afraid that my father will think I'm bragging.

"The next thing I remember is waking up in a room of bright lights with people standing around wearing aqua-colored clothes. When I sit up, a nurse pushes me back down on the operating table, screams at me, saying that I woke up too soon. I open my mouth to apologize, but instead, I throw up blood."

I admit dear reader, that this might be TMI for a Blogger entry, but on the other hand, I hope it gives voice to those who had a similar experience either as a child wanting so much to be accepted, or gives consolation to a mother trying to make the right choices.

Upon reflection, it looks like I was more interested in having folks who watched the parade see my badges than I was in being reverent to the solemn day, a consequence of being almost seven years old, I suppose.

Nowdays I find it hard to focus on my projects, for it seems disrespectful to not do something that honors those killed at war. The most I can do from where I am is to provide links to some content re those who are trying to raise awareness about the solemnity of Memorial Day; a day that is about so much more than being an "unofficial start if summer," and a day which is often confused with Veterans Day...


... and with this pictorial thought, I'll end my 2020 Memorial Day post here, dear reader, but not before referring you to other Memorial Day info:

One link is to a news segment titled These People Are Marching to Raise Awareness of the True Meaning of Memorial Day, the other link is for the news segment, To Many Americans, Memorial Day Has Lost Its Meaning.

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