Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk for May 28, 2012

Remember Memorial Day Like Your Life Depends On It – Because, It Does.

                            In America every man is free
                         To take care of his home and his family
                                         Randy Newman, “Sail Away”

Memorial Day is set apart from America’s other military-orientated holidays. There are no parades, no fireworks, and, unfortunately, very little fanfare.  Honoring the dead is always a delicate endeavor and, in the case of Memorial Day, it has been lost in a barrage of summer sale ads and vacations. Long after the sting of death has lost its meaning to the populace, the business of a having a holiday becomes the paramount focus.

Memorial Day has long been the gateway to summer, and a reminder that fun is close at hand. Like most of our holidays, the original concept has been lost on the business of business. It has become a day off for government workers, an opportunity for an increase in commerce, and a strange celebration of nothingness.  People are just glad to be off work – nothing more, nothing less.

Wikipedia sums up Memorial Day with an awkward entry:

On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

And, there you go – boys and girls – the loss of countless American lives, so that we can have a convenient three-day weekend. But, even that has gotten lost, today.  Like most other holidays, more and more businesses remain open. People participating in commerce, without any understanding of what the day really means. What is Memorial Day? Why observe the tragic?

Death is never pleasant. No one wants to talk about it. Sacrifice is nice, but to reflect on it goes against the nature of today’s society – everything in a nice package and no one bleeds. But, that is not the way it is in the real world.

Nothing is free and sometimes it takes tremendous sacrifice to ensure that the masses can be safe in their homes and in their lives. Many men and women have given their all to make sure that our communities are drenched in freedom. Freedoms that are often taken for granted.

It should never be forgotten that America has been built on the shoulders of the soldiers who were willing to fight and die for our country. The notion of ultimate sacrifice should never be eclipsed.  It should remain squarely in the forefront of every American’s mind.

Time should be devoted, daily, to reflect on what it means to have freedom – on its responsibilities and its pleasures; its greatness and its flaws – a remembrance that should permeate the mind of every American.

For all of the positive aspects of the 1960s and 70s, many of the tragedies of the era eroded the trust of the federal government.  The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy rocked the country to its core. The battle over Vietnam still lingers in the hearts of many people. The hurt and frustration of a war that people, to this day, have trouble defining, can still be seen at veterans gatherings. Serving your country during an unpopular war, may be the greatest sacrifice of all. However, the unappreciated always have a seat at the table of the righteous.

Watergate, Nixon, Ford and Carter left many people feeling empty; trust in the government was in shambles and there was no faith in what America was built upon. In many ways, America was an empty, cold shell of itself.

But, as the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”, and America has come together to celebrate our military. After 911, it was very apropos to speak well of the service branches. That good feeling has not waned, and it never should. They are the reason we are free. No other truth is more evident.

Here, in our own community, we should be extra grateful. We have a wonderful community partner in the Columbus Air Force Base. The men and women who take care of this country also take care of Lowndes County. We should be forever appreciative.

Columbus also takes pride in being the community that started Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day. We should be proud of that heritage, and infuse it into our community’s identity. It is something that should be a part of our daily lexicon.

Monday, May 28th has been set aside as Memorial Day in 2012; it should be seen as a major holiday, in our hearts, if only for this reason:

On June 6, 1944, with the Allied Forces facing the dilemma that Germany and the power of Hitler was on the verge of victory, they launched the greatest military assault in history. The beaches of Normandy turned into sands of red death. Most of the men, who were part of the first wave of the assault, were killed almost immediately.

The D-Day Museum and Overlord Embroidery, Britain’s only D-Day Museum reports:

The Allied casualty figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2,700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6,603 Americans. However, recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate – and much higher – figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and, so far, they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead). 

Germany collapsed, on May 8, 1945, and with Germany’s unconditional surrender, the war in Europe was over.  There was no luck, there were no coincidence and there was no good fortune in the victory. No – just the blood, sweet, tears and death of the individuals who fought to win the war for our freedoms.

Thousands of men and women have now paid the price for our liberty. Let’s never forget. Let’s never take for granted the price that has been paid for the luxury of our human rights. The cost of freedom has been paid for with the greatest price a human can pay – their very life.

Remember Memorial Day like your life depends on it – because it does.

Joseph B. St. John

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