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Memorial Day and Deliberate Ignorance

By Greg L | 30 May 2011 | Patriotism | 9 Comments

Gauging from many of the comments I’ve seen online today, this is “Generic Military Service Day,”  the day when people offer generic and non-specific thanks to unnamed persons, living or dead, who have served in the U. S. Armed Forces.  We as a society have eviscerated any relevance remaining within “Decoration Day” or “Memorial Day” and in our mass cognitive ignorance and apathy have replaced it with about the same level of meaning most of society reserves for Easter, which has become “Happy Decorated Eggs and Chocolate Day,” having nothing at all to do with the amazing miracle of the Son of God actually rising from the dead after paying with his life for the sins of the whole world.

Cultures throughout time have defined themselves in part through the festivals they observed.  These have helped to pass on cultural memes and shared community values to succeeding generations, ensuring continuity for the culture.  When cultural institutions rot, or are assaulted by the culture to the point they lose relevance, we lose a big part of that.  Now we have July 4th morphing into  “Fireworks Day”, Memorial Day becoming this thin and nearly meaningless generic military service holiday, and “Cinco De Mayo” and “Earth Day” are becoming more and more culturally relevant despite them having nothing to do with this country at all.

This becomes particularly troubling when political candidates not only fall into this confusion, but then doggedly try to defend it when it’s pointed out that they’re confused.  I’ve seen it from candidates who are relative newcomers to this country, and I get them not quite understanding the history of Decoration Day, although it’s hard to fathom why they so fiercely try to defend what is essentially ignorance.  I’ve even seen this from candidates who are veterans themselves, and they doggedly defend their ignorance as well.  When this cultural rot extends all the way to the presumptive champions of our cultural heritage itself, we’re in deep trouble.

The next time a political candidate starts sending out thanks to veterans on Memorial Day, I think I’m gonna hurl.

My family doesn’t have a huge military tradition, but my Grandmother’s brother Eddie was a P-51 Mustang pilot in World War II.  He never made it back.  He was shot down over Norway.  My Grandmother never knew where his body actually fell until pretty recently when some locals in a small Norwegian Town started investigating the mysterious crash site and were finally able to gather enough evidence that allowed the body to be identified.  She got a chance to go to Norway and pay her respects with a small American flag that she planted there, and got her chance, so long delayed to have her own Memorial Day in a faraway land where her big brother’s life ended.  While she’s in pretty good health for someone of her age now, making that trip more than once just isn’t possible, so in her lifetime she really got just one Memorial Day. One.

So you political candidates who want to get lazy and ignorant with the real meaning of Memorial Day, it’s about time you got yourself educated a bit.  You look like a fool promoting “Generic Military Service Day” even if you don’t call it that, and those of us out there with Uncle Eddie’s just get pissed off at you demeaning the one day reserved for them.  As you tear the meaning of this day away, you demonstrate that you’re not the solution to America’s problems, you are part of what troubles America.

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  1. Steve Thomas said on 30 May 2011 at 7:36 pm:
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    I thought “generic military appreciation day” was in November, celebrated on what was one called “Armistace Day”. Guess I was wrong.

  2. Groveton said on 31 May 2011 at 6:56 am:
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    From my old blog - posted two years ago …


  3. Patty said on 31 May 2011 at 9:30 am:
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    While trying to research my Dad’s military service I ran across this video about the 7th Infantry Divsion during WWII:


    I thought some of you may like to watch it.

    Also, please ask your relatives about their service in the military and about their life before they pass away and it’s too late. I’m sure they would love to tell their stories. It truly is hard to find out things after they are gone. I know that first hand. Even though the military keeps records they don’t keep journals. Also, for those of you who have relatives that served in WWII and Korea, there was a fire in St. Louis that destroyed some records. You may want to check on that.

    I’m truly grateful to those who have helped me put the pieces together of my Dad’s military service.

    Thanks Greg!!!

  4. skepp said on 31 May 2011 at 11:17 am:
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    I hate to say it, but it sure seems that Memorial Day
    has become the year’s biggest Mattress Sale. I mean: MATRESS SALE!!!

    My husband was in WWII. The number of letters that were written during tht time is amazing. The support among themselves ran like a red thread through all the letters. “It’ll get better. Hang in there. You’ll get your stripes. Congrats on becoming a father; soon you’ll be home and hold him in your arms.”

    It’s a pity that there won’t be many handwritten letters from and between those in the military today. The computer has spoiled that.

    I can imagine young soldiers writing by lantern light with pencil -
    ball point pens came later - thinking about those back home. No phone, no e-mail, no Skype.

  5. Harry said on 2 Jun 2011 at 8:57 am:
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    So true, Greg. The politicians are the worst offenders, since they - presumably - should know better. But it speaks to the larger problem; politicians no longer serve people, but serve themselves. When a chance to look patriotic emerges, they exploit it. Couple that with horrific public education, and you have people without historical frame of reference being duped by opportunistic demagogues.

  6. Constitutionalist said on 2 Jun 2011 at 10:00 pm:
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    Well said, Greg! I, too, dislike the generic pat on the back most people give on Memorial Day, which, only makes Veteran’s Day seem like Memorial Day II. On that day, I gave thanks to those that didn’t make it back, like my grandfather’s brother, who similarly was shot down while flying a mission during WWII. He was flying over Africa.
    I gave thanks; but, I also offered a prayer. A prayer that those currently serving DO make it back so that we can praise them on Veteran’s Day and not mourn them on Memorial Day. God Bless!

  7. George S. Harris said on 7 Jun 2011 at 6:00 pm:
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    I’m not sure anyone who posted on here understands what Memorial Days is about or what it’s orginal purpose was. “Decoration Day” started shortly after the Civil War when the graves of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice were decorated. Memorial Day should serve the same purpose–it is not to remember the living, but to remember those who gave the last full measure. Veteran’s Day is the time to remember all who have served but originally was to celebrate the events that occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.

    Memorial Day, 2011

    As we approach another Memorial Day, it has dawned on me that time has flown by so swiftly. It seems only yesterday that I was a young barely 18 year old from a small town in Oklahoma and I was sitting in a room in the Navy Recruiting Station in Kansas City, Mo. We were being addressed by a Navy officer whose rank I no longer remember, but the one thing that has stayed with me all these years was this comment, “They say we are involved in a police action in Korea but I have to tell you that one hell of a lot of cops are being killed.”

    I don’t know why that has stayed with me but it has. Come August 30 of this year it will be 60 years since I raised my right hand and swore to, “…defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” And in those six decades, you and I have seen many, “…cops being killed.”

    Memorial Day came into being shortly after the Civil War in order to honor those who gave the last full measure during this war of brother against brother and father against son. Although we now think of it more as a weekend of picnics, hamburgers, cold beer and mega-sales, we should never forget that its purpose was to honor those who gave everything to insure that those who are celebrating today have the freedom to do so.

    In a few weeks we will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the first Battle of Manassas or the Battle of Bull Run. In the intervening 150 years, 1,248,089 young Americans have died in the service of their country. That’s almost one life per hour for all these years. Some who read these meager words have witnessed this terrible loss of life and others can only imagine what it must be like to see life’s light fade from the eyes of a friend. It is difficult to think that in a single minute the life of the person you have shared so much with in combat is gone in a flash—the crack of a rifle, the explosion of a mortar or artillery shell or the terrifying blast of an improvised explosive device and another sacrifice is laid on the altar of the God of War.

    Fifty years ago, Pete Seeger wrote a song entitled, “Where Have all The Flowers Gone.” One of the verses of this song seems fitting for this day of remembrance:

    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Gone to graveyards every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    To all those who have gone before, let us remember how much they gave and how much we have received.

    Captain George Harris served in the navy for 39 years and served in the Korean War and Vietnam.

  8. Greg L said on 7 Jun 2011 at 7:00 pm:
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    I find it vaguely disturbing that the lyrics to an anti-war protest song is being used to somehow memorialize those who gave their lives so we can be free. These heroes did not die in order to lay their lives on an altar to Mars, but because protecting us and our children was so important to them they were ready to pay any price, up to and including their own lives, to secure our freedom and liberty.

    I choose not to postscript this comment with a third-person description of my military service. That is just too strange.

  9. Wineplz said on 14 Jun 2011 at 3:38 pm:
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    I know this sounds bad, but I’m at least thankful for those expressing their gratitude for our military on Memorial Day, even if the day is for remembering our fallen heroes, while Veterans Day is typically for remembering those who came home. At least they’re in the right vicinity, unlike those who think the day is about getting a great bargain on a retail purchase and opening in the pool.

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