Decoration Day in my Day

May/26/2013 11:28AM
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It was called Decoration Day when I was a kid. My small town was full of vets coming home from WWII, or not coming home. Some came home wounded for life, physically and mentally. The mental issues were called shell shocked in those days. It was easier to know who hadn’t been to war than who had served. Those who didn’t serve were talked about a lot and those who did never talked about the war, but did point out the dodgers with more than a little resentment.

The purpose of Decoration Day was clear and no one needed a history class or civics class to understand why we were taking time to recognize the sacrifices made. Kids my age were without dads. Dad didn’t come home. Or, Dad couldn’t work because Dad was disabled from the war. We got it. We understood how much our town and everyone in it gave to the war. We heard whispers about men in town who had been decorated for bravery in combat. It was always the little guys, never the John Wayne types, and we kids looked at them and courage differently. Size didn’t matter, it was strange who we knew got all the medals.

I never felt that the parades or attention meant much to the vets. It was all too fresh and didn’t seem adequate for the sacrifices most had made. I know it didn’t for my Dad who served in the Navy in the Pacific. It was another work day for him. With a little time off to listen to the Indy 500 on the radio.

Besides, Korea was heating up and and a new group of Dads were leaving. Some of the Dads who just got home were probably thinking they might get called back. Mine did worry about that.

I marched in the parade as both a cub and boy scout. As I remember most of the town turned out. It was embarrassing the first time. Seemed like everyone on the curb was staring right at you and some of my friends would yell out something inappropriate as I passed.

A lot of years have passed since then. A lot of wars, a lot of sacrifice, and many parades. My generation got to experience Viet Nam. I flunked my army physical and was happy to do so. Some of my friends didn’t come back. Some who did are just now getting the respect they deserve. It was the beginning of how bad behavior by a few thousand people can influence the entire country. It showed how liberal colleges and universities with strong encouragement from the faculty can get a lot of things wrong. It was a wrong war, but those who fought the war deserved the same respect as those who came home from prior wars. They didn’t get it. Now, a country still feeling guilt  is trying to give them the respect and thanks, but it’s far too late and they suffer too much from those who got  it wrong and took it out on them. A very sad time in our history.

It’s a good thing that we learned from that.  Many think Iraq and Afghanistan are bad wars, but few seem to be taking it our on the brave young men and women who have and continue to fight those wars. Everyone in uniform today seems to get a lot of positive special attention as they should. We hear a lot of good people go up and say “thank you for your service”.

These wars have lasted longer than WWII. There are thousands who are veterans of those wars back home today.

Memorial Day is our time to set-aside time to think about all of those who have served in all of the wars this country has fought.  I have six grand kids and I’m guessing not a one will give one thought to those veterans this weekend. probably not a thought from my kids either, although one goes to the parade almost every year and when you do that it is hard not to give it some thought. Especially if you go to the cemetery where the parade ends. I hope I’m wrong.

When I do think back on the days when it was called Decoration Day it reminds me that it was the Greatest Generation that fought that war. Most didn’t wait to be drafted, they literally ran to the recruiting office days after Pearl Harbor. Today’s military is all volunteer. That speaks volumes about today’s generation. Maybe we don’t give them enough credit for that. They might be just as great.

Whatever you do this weekend, try to reflect on why we have this holiday. Think about someone you know who’s in the military. Think of someone you know who lost someone in a war. Think of someone who came back wounded. Write a check to Wounded Warriors. Think about a relative of yours who died fighting for our country. Think about that small town where I grew up where there were no young men in town for years.

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