Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day - A National Moment of Rememberance 3 P.M.

On Memorial Day, please pause for a National Moment of Rememberance at 3 P.M., to recognize the sacrifice of our brave soldiers from all wars.

And, please, whisper a prayer for peace on earth.


WWII Correspondent, Boyd Lewis wrote a personal remembrance of Memorial Day and its significance from a unique perspective at the request of the Commission's Director. He was born in 1905 and has memory of all America’s wars beginning with the First World War. He covered combat on the Western Front in World War II for the United Press and was one of three American Press Association representatives at the German surrender at Reims in 1945.

“Lord keep my memory green.”

So spoke the “Haunted Man” in Charles Dickens’ story of that name long years ago.

So might the multitudes who have sacrificed their lives for us in many good causes cry out to us today, haunted perhaps that the memory of their service as perpetuated in the nation’s Memorial Day needs steps to recover its original meaning.

Has Memorial Day just become an extra holiday from work or school? Have we made it more a time to hit the shopping malls or go to the beach or the golf course? Once this was not so. I remember those days, especially those sweet dim days between the two great wars which now seems so blissfully uncomplicated, first the European war that began in 1914 and ended in 1917 and second the World War which began in 1939 and which ended—by treaty signed before my very eyes—in France in 1945.

In that interval of less troubled times the nation honored its dead on the 30th of May and not on a day conveniently tacked onto the nearest two-day weekend to create a triple holiday.
On that May 30th, which we then called “Decoration Day,” Americans marched in solemn procession in every town and hamlet to lay flowers upon the many graves in their cemeteries marked by metallic standards showing that they held the honored remains of fellow men we knew as “doughboys” or “gobs” or “fly boys.”

I remember, oh yes, I remember well. I marched many such mile to the gravesites at the head of the mongoose Patrol, Troop 1, Boy Scouts of America, Foxborough, Massachusetts. We were one unit of a parade that featured the living veterans of the wars then remembered. Men in the faded blue of the northern forces in the Civil War of the previous century were in automobiles and wagons. They waved feeble hands to the throngs on the sidewalks.

Veterans of other wars had marching units, the blue and khaki of the Spanish-American War along with the drab of World War I. They stepped along smartly from memory of their training and we Boy Scouts sought to emulate them.

We did not know it at the time but far to the south similar processions were marching to the cemeteries where veterans of the Confederacy were interred, honoring those who fell in their lost cause. Along a wide band of the central states, soldiers of the Northern Blue and the Southern Grey were honored on Memorial Day, regardless of time of national healing after a divisive conflict.

Full many a cause for honored remembrance has been added since those days of my boyhood, full many a grave filled, full many a battle won and precious rights preserved. The great second World War is (astonishingly for some of us) half a century back. But great sacrifices have been made during the prolonged Cold War which followed and the roster of those deserving honor and remembrance grows longer with each passing day.

“What does Memorial Day mean to you?” a little girl was asked.“That’s the day the pool opens,” she replied.

How fortunate we are that the little girl may go to her pool. How fortunate we are to be a nation of peace. How very blessed are we all that veterans died to make this possible.

Let us remember. Let us put the “memorial” back into Memorial Day. The tranquility we enjoy was purchased dearly. May we never forget.

-Boyd Lewis

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