BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO
The significance of Memorial Day had faded because of the relative peace America was blessed with, lasting from the mid-1970s to the turn of the century. Since then, however, we can’t escape remembering Americans who gave, in Lincoln’s phrase, “the last full measure of devotion” in the seemingly endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently, Syria and Niger.
PETER WALDNER ILLUSTRATION
On Memorial Day 2009, President Barack Obama gave an eloquent eulogy for those who have died wearing American uniforms: “If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they’d be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they’d be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn’t possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.”
Officially sanctioned ceremonies for remembering the war dead go back at least as far as Homer. And every year, at the crossroads of spring and summer, Americans continue that honored — and essential — tradition of refusing to forget. (more…)
A few years ago a reporter from this paper on assignment to do a Memorial Day story, visited the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale where those who fought and died in America’s wars are buried.
He came upon Roberto Gonzalez, a Vietnam veteran and a caretaker of the cemetery, washing and polishing headstones, working alone in the aisles of white marble. Mr. Gonzalez said that when cleaning, “I like to do it by myself. Do it right.” (more…)
JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO
When I was a youngster, I lived for a time in the rustic lake country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where my mother’s family had deep roots dating back to the middle of the 19th century.
Of all the relatives who took on the thankless challenge of trying to mold my character, my favorite was my Great Aunt Libby. Her father — my great-grandfather — had fought in the Civil War and was almost killed on the field of battle. The severe head wound he sustained left him blind for the rest of his life. (more…)