What Is Memorial Day?
LT Bobby Ross

My years whirl past me. Swirling. Dry, broken grass hovering in a
spring breeze. Can I remember my experiences in war? Hardly. Fighting
for my country, my youth invested, seems such a long time ago, and so
unimportant. The calendar this year marks Memorial Day on the 29th of 
May,2000. Have I lost something? The traditional Memorial Day, also known 
as Decoration Day, is on the 30th of May. This observed Memorial Day on May 
29th coincidentally allows for a national three day holiday. Such is 
commercialism's capitalistic American display. But why do I feel so 
stricken, like I have abandoned old friends from long ago? Their ghosts 
consort with my floating years, and their spirits coast around my presence. 
Another three day holiday! Memorial Day! Maybe me and the kids can go 
camping? Or, to the beach? Memorial Day is fun! This is the 
inconsiderate, thoughtless approach to this meaningful, and consecrated 
moment representing one three hundred and sixty-fifth of our year. What is 
the meaning of Memorial Day? Is it merely a three day escape from our 
worldly duties? Or, is it the official beginning of summer? Is selling 
more hot dogs at the ballpark the overriding clarification? Many souls, 
sacrificed in war, in duty to America, are wandering. They drift in a 
heavenly place, minus their future here upon earth. Tomorrows were forfeited. 
Given up so our nation would invigorate free souls, aspire them to 
freedom, and justly allow their lives lived as they prefer. Raising 
offspring above restrictions, as they desire. Those lost lives giving we, 
the living, what we want freely. Those are the souls we respect on Memorial 
Day. This means it is a sacred day. Without retrospect, sacrifice is 
mute. Old Glory does not wave by accident. It flutters in the spring air 
revealing honor. The color red represents the blood bloom from those who 
fell, those who clawed, those who cried in horrible pain. Those who died 
fast. And, those who died ever so slowly. They did their duty. When I see 
Old Glory waving on a sunny, end of May day, the pigment red gushes from 
millions of souls, floating, not with us, anymore. They are amongst our 
heroes, cajoling with angels with their champions, conquerors and 
commanders. Friends and loved ones gather, over the rave, witness to those 
who gave more than anyone should be required to relinquish. They did not 
want to yield. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when the 
moment harshly struck them their fatal blow, they cried for their mother, or 
their friend. Then there
were those, many of those, who knew exactly what they were giving. They
moved forward knowingly. They lost their lives so their mission would be 
accomplished. Fools! Some intellects can say that. One would have to be 
an imbecile to give up life, no matter what the cause. For a flag? Futile! 
For a country! More pointless! For freedom! What freedom is there in 
mortality? Yes, fools they may have been, but their numbers add up in an 
awesome display of American loss! Veterans' Cemeteries, white badges 
sailing row after row after row upon green grass, almost never ending, 
creeping onto the horizon. Constant reminders of the devastation of our 
human treasure. Mothers' tears, enough to fill an ocean to overflow. 
Sweethearts, broken hearted, reading telegrams. Sons and daughters, many 
unborn, wakening at birth to a devastated family suffering from a victim of 
war there no more. And what does all this macabre math equal? Memorial Day 
is the correct answer. Few Americans know a person who died in war. 
Their family trees have lost some leaves, falling as they fought in one of 
America's wars, or discarded in the peacetime military. We are a busy 
people. We have business to capture. Our kids are in school. We have 
chores. Mundane, or surrealistic. We are a spirited society, seeking 
applications to improve ourselves and our communities. We are a helpful 
populace, always there when the going gets tough to help those who have 
suffered the tragedies of nature, whether a hurricane or a famine. 
Americans are always the first on the scene worldwide bearing their gifts of 
human spirit and abundance. This is why it is so puzzling that the meaning 
of Memorial Day seems to lack substance to many of our own people. Even 
with the day itself. Put back to accommodate a holiday schedule fixed by 
some organism no one knows, yet powerful enough to do so, the day itself 
lacks consequence to too many. Many who never knew a person who died in 
service to America are wrought with the invisible pain of not feeling for 
those who do. Americans take things for granted. We have so much. So 
very much. Endless choices. These options are not available worldwide. Our 
shelves are full. Unlike many in other nations of the world. So many are 
empty or offer very limited selections. Those American fighting men and 
women killed in battle whose souls are floating actually made available 
these wondrous choices we have every day of our American lives. Yet, most 
of our youngsters have no idea whatsoever what this means. They don't learn 
this in school. We must teach them. For without knowledge, they may end up
thinking, or believing, all these marvelous selections came without
circumstance. Minus anything. Equaling no meaning.
Our nation needs to halt and perceive the flags and flowers on our
Veterans graves on this consecrated holiday. We need to lift a common
voice of adoration to those floating spirits of our onetime American
Warriors, and extol them with a salutation. We have not come that far with 
our technological miracles of this millennium to become crass. We still 
need respect. Our backs can not turn from formality. Our eyes can not look 
away from custom. Our voices must not resonate in silence against honor and 
glory. To do so will leave us hollow, only to fill us with that which is 
desolate and lacking potential. This is not the true meaning of Memorial 
Day. The heartfelt significance requires reminding. Story telling. Wisdom 
being passed on from our Veterans to our younger generations. An 
interpretation certified by those who remember the horrors of war. Without 
this core, our society can not remain genuine. It becomes contemptible. It 
rots from within. These floating souls of our lost American Warriors are a 
powerful force, for they live within our hearts. They constantly seek 
justification for their contributions, and they are real within us. Such is 
what our American substance stands for, where character is developed, 
individually is guaranteed, and a community, a nation, survives.
America enters the 21st Century as the most powerful entity
humankind has ever experienced. America permeates this next century with
vast responsibilities. Our children must bear this promise. We can not
turn our backs on these bygone descendants, nor can we do so upon
ourselves. Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to express a moment of
solitude where each of us can personify in our own way what we feel. I
only speak for my myself, as one who has bared his soul to the dread of
war. So my father did, and his father's father before him, and their souls 
float amongst the multitudes. My mother and her mother held their Veterans 
after they returned from war, tears streaming down their cheeks in gratitude 
for their safe return. And there were those in my ancestry who did not 
return from war. And their mothers' tears soaked the pillows on beds for 
generations to sleep upon. Their souls are the dreams that drift amongst 
the floating, gathering at the end of May in the breeze of summer's coming, 
in the cool glass of lemonade at the child's street side stand, in the 
cheers at the ball game from the crowd rooting their team to victory and 
enjoying the best hot dogs in the world. Let us all stop for a moment, 
whether it is on the traditional day, or the observed Memorial Day, or even 
at the end of May, and reach for those floating souls. Let us reveal to 
them how much we cherish their sacrifice for our free people. Let these 
memories harvest our recognition of the meaning of Memorial Day in a very 
simple word. And let that word, simply stated be: Thanks. (copyright 2000)

(Permission to reproduce granted freely and unconditionally)

Bobby Ross
11 Music Square East
Suite #501
Nashville, TN 37203
A Proud Supporter of FARM AID!
Office 615 244-8725
SPLASH 2000!

SPLASH 2000!