Richard’s almanac: Memorial Day weekend 2020

So, the official opening of the summer season is this weekend. But more importantly it’s this country’s Memorial Day weekend with Memorial Day on Monday, May 25, a time we take to honor those who gave their lives in the defense of our country.

The day is traditionally marked on the Island with ceremonies and a parade. Taps are played and Gold Star Mothers — mothers of fallen soldiers — are recognized. The parade that follows includes a contingent from the American Legion Post here, Shelter Island Firefighters and their impressive vehicles, the Island EMT’s, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a host of other marchers, and dignitaries in classic cars.

After the parade everyone would gather by the Legion Hall flagpole to listen to the guest speaker. An old fashioned hot dog barbecue would follow. But, sadly, this year’s activities have fallen victim to the coronavirus. Too bad.

As far as I know, Memorial Day started out being known as Decoration Day and was first marked by those wanting to remember soldiers from both the North and South who were killed during the Civil War. And there were some 600,000 of them.

Then we had the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War along with the Vietnam War, and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf. Death tolls from these wars are staggering, and that’s why we are free.

American men and women gave their lives in faraway places to preserve the freedoms we have today at home. And Memorial Day is the day to honor them.

The name changed from Decoration Day and was officially scheduled to occur on the last Monday in May. Congress did that in 1967, I believe, creating a three-day weekend like the rest of the legal holidays, except the Fourth of July. That cannot be at any other time, even though it’s awkward when it happens on a Wednesday. Is it a long weekend or a long week? We are in a resort community and these details are important.

But the most important fact to remember is the debt we owe to all those young souls who died far away from home and never were able to experience fully the joys of life. It’s their day.

I have heard that those who want to get a sense of the parade can get it online or on channel 22.

Meanwhile, I wish everyone an enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend and start to a fantastic summer season. I would like to see that almost palpable feeling of anticipation as the summer season starts.