Sunday, May 26, 2019

Faster and Faster They Slip Away

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States.  I am a day early as tomorrow I will be joining Music Moves Me.

Faster and faster the generations who fought in war seem to be slipping away.  Just yesterday I read the news that a 94 year old Navajo (Diné) Code Talker and New Mexico Senator John Pinto had passed away.

His singing of his people's Potato Song was an annual ritual in the New Mexico senate.

What follows is a repost of a Memorial Day post from May 30, 2011, with some edits and updates.  I was talking to my now-adult son a while back, and remembering this trip.  It brought back such memories:

In 2002, we were on our way from upstate New York in the United States to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We stopped off in Iowa City, where one of my aunts (now deceased) then lived.  It was the Memorial Day weekend.

Just after we crossed into the city limits, we passed a cemetery.  It was a blizzard of American flags.  I could not believe how many flags there were.  It showed that the residents of Iowa City had not completely forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day, a special day for residents of the United States.

In 2010, I blogged about a GI love story for Memorial Day.  This year, I'd like to talk some more about the origin of this holiday, which is tied up with our Civil War, 1861-1865.  It's strange in a way, when I write about the Civil War, because I had no ancestors in this country during the Civil War.  So I don't have any direct family links to this war.  Rather, my links come from being born and growing up in this country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.  It was first observed in 1868 with laying of flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate troops at Arlington National Cemetery.

My home state, New York, was the first to adopt Decoration Day as a holiday.

After World War I, it became a holiday (Memorial Day) to honor the dead of all wars.

I can remember, growing up, when Memorial Day was observed on May 30, no matter what day of the week it was.  In 1971, I believe, it was changed to the current "last Monday in May" so that it could become part of several three day weekends being created.  Many people think that celebrating Memorial Day more as a "first day of summer" blowout beach/BBQ/shopping day has been recent, but apparently even in the early 20th century the day was already starting to drift away from its original meeting.

Another ceremony connected with this holiday is the playing of Taps.  Taps originated during the Civil War, composed by a member of the Army of the Potomac to serve as a "lights out" signal. Research I've done indicates that it didn't take long for Taps to be adopted by both Federal and Confederate armies.  It is so well suited to military burials that, again, its true origin is somewhat buried.

I am proud to say that my father was a (non combat related) disabled veteran of World War II.  One of his sisters served in the war, too, as a WAVE.  My mother worked in a parachute factory.  One of my spouse's aunts, who died earlier this month at age 107, worked in a bomb sight factory in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Today, and tomorrow, let us take a moment to honor the veterans of all wars, living and dead.  They are our living reminders that the price of freedom is sometimes a steep one for those who pay it on our behalf.


  1. My own father was in the infantry of Patton's Third Army in World War II and walked all over northern Europe. He's no longer with us, but my own husband is a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War and he's still very much with us! Thank God.

  2. Do you remember the stink the VFW and American Legion put up when they voted to make Memorial Day part of a three-day weekend? Now, of course, it's just the first weekend of summer. We don't even remember that the intent of Memorial Day is for the servicemembers who were killed in action...

    1. John, I do remember. I've been through, a number of times, Waterloo, New York, which is said to be one of the birthplaces of Decoration Day. (I should stop and visit their museum devoted to the holiday). I think, in recent years, we may be moving back (a little) in the direction of honoring our war dead, but too many times it just seems to be granting of discounts for vets. Retail, always retail.

  3. My dad was also a WW II vet, he served in the Army as a clerk/typist and was stationed in Italy. He was 18 when he was drafted, probably 21 when he was honorably discharged.

    The Army never forgets. When he died, at age 88, the Army sent an honor guard to his funeral.

    1. Songbird, I am happy the Army did right by your Dad. For certain vets, it's a lot more complicated, and it might make a good blog post for one day. My Dad had such faith in the VA hospital system.

  4. Some guy on the radio was being interviewed and he was clueless as to what the day was all about. No, it's not to remember our loved ones who provide for us.

  5. I was reading something this week about how the origins of Memorial Day had to do with freed slaves honoring Union soldiers. I wonder if that's true.


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