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The Sassy Sandpiper: Memorial Day — Remember

By M. R. WILSON

We can all be true to the original spirit of Memorial Day.

In 1971, the last Monday in May was designated a federal holiday to honor men and women who died while serving in the armed forces of the United States.

The observance originated in solemn tribute to soldiers lost in the Civil War. I remember when Mom and Granny called the holiday “Decoration Day,” and since it had expanded to honor all a family’s departed, they would send cash contributions to relatives in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, “for flowers to decorate the graves.”

This ritual made me sad.

We should feel sad. We should feel solemn. We should participate in “traditional” activities such as visiting a cemetery or a war memorial, or marching in or being respectfully attentive during a parade, or simply lighting a candle and being in silence a few precious moments.

But no!

Memorial Day has become the “unofficial start of summer.” Well, duh, yes:  The Summer Solstice doesn’t happen until June 20th this year.

Who cares?

Memorial Day has become an R&R holiday. Retail and Recreation!

Get to a Memorial Day Sale! They’re everywhere! All weekend! Have a barbecue! Go to the beach!

Everything that’s important is open. Only banks, federal and government offices, libraries, schools, post offices, and maybe a liquor store or two are closed.

Let’s party!

Do you have anything FUN planned for Memorial Day?

Well, um, probably not. No.

What I do plan is retrieve an old, torn flag from the closet shelf. It was a gift from my friend and next-door neighbor Ray, who almost died in the Battle of the Bulge. He was “laid up in the hospital two years in France” and came home with a mangled right hand and arm, a Purple Heart, and lifetime disability benefits. He raised hell for a living in Pennsylvania before retiring to Florida.

Ray had a generous spirit, though. He’d bring little presents. He comforted me after 9/11. He shared my sorrow when my beloved Labrador Scarlett crossed over. He volunteered at a rehab center, helping feed clients their noon meal and giving hugs aplenty, “even when they smelled really strong.”

His vigor declined. I found him all too often by our mailboxes, spilled off his motorized chair. I patched him up more than once. Ray wept when he told me “I decided to go to the home,” a skilled nursing facility nearby. Before Ray moved, he gave me the flag, flown for years in his back yard. Later he was transferred to a medical center in Palm Harbor.

I didn’t see Ray often after that move. He died in a couple of years.  I went to his funeral. Open casket. The crisp American flag folded in its tri-corner frame brought fresh tears. Ray was buried in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

I’ll display Ray’s flag (shown in accompanying photo) on Memorial Day and maybe reread a childhood favorite, The Story of Clara Barton. http://amzn.to/1TMMN9j

Whatever you do, be safe.

I hope you have someone like Ray to remember.

Columns | The Sassy Sandpiper | Memorial Day | TB Reporter

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The Sassy Sandpiper: Memorial Day -- Remember
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The Sassy Sandpiper: Memorial Day -- Remember
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We can all be true to the original spirit of Memorial Day.
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Tampa Bay Reporter


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