Spotlight on Community
It's Not Just the Day the Pools Open
For most Americans, Memorial Day is the beginning of summer, even though the calendar doesn't recognize it for about another month. It's the first holiday with great weather, so we flock to our lakes, parks and pools to show off our new swimsuits and sundresses. Hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie are on the menu and for a finale we'll watch a fireworks show.
However, that was not the reason the holiday was set aside. It was first known as Decoration Day and began as a tradition to honor those lost in the Civil War. Families would gather in cemeteries to decorate the graves of their loved ones and often would linger to have a picnic. Sometimes a ceremony would be held on the site of a battlefield. Waterloo, NY is credited with the origin of the day of remembrance for their observance in 1866. Not only did families gather in honor of their lost loved ones, but the entire city officially shut down.
By 1868, Decoration Day had gone national and the date was moved to May 30th in most places, because it was not associated with any battle in the Civil War as May 5th had been. Decoration Day became an official holiday in every state by 1890, though not all states shared the same date.
In 1914 America became embroiled in the War to End All Wars and the grief for soldiers lost in the Civil War was overshadowed by a new wave of losses. Unfortunately, when World War II came along, we realized the engagement begun in 1914 had not ended all wars.
A Political Divide
In the years since WWII, war has become a sticking point with Americans. We can't agree about the necessity to engage in the conflicts we've sent our sons and daughters to die in and yet we continue to lose some of our best and brightest in our military endeavors.
In the Civil War, WWI and WWII, most every family had a member counted among the dead. Thankfully, that is no longer so. While most everyone knows of someone who has died for our country, many times that's a distant cousin, a son of a Gold Star mom down the street or the daughter of a co-worker. Over time, the holiday came to include the things we love today, parades and fireworks. As fewer and fewer families suffered losses in their own families, the original purpose of Decoration Day faded and it became Memorial Day.
"Thank you for your service." Veterans say they appreciate these kinds words, but not on Memorial Day. Certainly no one means dishonor to anyone when they utter the polite phrase, but many of our veterans want to remind you, Veterans Day is in November. While they'll march proudly in those parades and celebrate their service in November, that's not what Memorial Day is about.
If you are not among those who have lost family members in recent years, you may not understand the pain being suffered by loved ones and comrades-in-arms of the fallen. Certainly I had not thought about it until I heard a presentation by Matthew Caldwell of Carry the Load at a recent Garland MLS Meeting. He told the story of his service, his pain and the deep significance of his participation in The Dallas Memorial March on Memorial Day.
Carry the Load
Carry the Load is a national movement to honor fallen soldiers. The members of Carry the Load march in relay from the East Coast and the West Coast to meet in Dallas on Memorial Day Weekend. These marchers carry a flag in five mile relays to honor their lost loved ones, but they also carry something else. They carry backpacks filled with weights - each pound dedicated to someone lost in military service.
Even now, as you read this article, veterans, family members and friends are marching across America to honor those they have lost and to show their respect to our military. In cities throughout our nation, rallies are being held to support the marchers.
They are marching to Dallas, not only because it is centrally located, but because this organization began in Dallas. A Dallas veteran, hurt and angry at the accolades people tried to give him on Memorial Day, loaded up a backpack, each pound representing someone he knew personally, and marched around White Rock Lake. What began that day became a national expression of veterans from every state and now Americans of every walk of life are joining the march.
Dallas Memorial March
There are many ways to participate in this great cause, but if you live in Dallas, the very best way is to plan on attending the Dallas Memorial March. Carry the Load issues this invitation: "Reverchon Park in Dallas hosts the two-day event featuring music, inspirational speeches, stories of fallen heroes, flag ceremonies and more. No registration or payment is required to attend — we simply ask you to respect those who have given everything to protect and serve us all."
Show compassion to our veterans who are suffering the heavy loss of their friends. Support the families with empty seats at their dinner tables, because of lives given by their loved ones. Go to the lake. Watch the fireworks. But also, spend an hour in Reverchon Park this Memorial Day Weekend. Bring honor back to Memorial Day.