Back when Memorial Day was Decoration Day, life was pretty simple, and so was the holiday. Just about every town in the country had a memorial service honoring local men who died during World War I.
These towns later added the names of those who died during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Today we add more names from recent conflicts.
Decoration Day usually featured a parade of the school band, a few cars with dignitaries, representatives from the local VFW and American Legion posts, a color guard and troops of marching veterans. At the war memorial someone would give a speech about freedom and the need to sometimes put our lives on the line to defend it. Then an honor guard would fire a 21-gun salute and someone from the high school band would play “Taps” on his trumpet.
Then, folks would drift away to the ice cream parlor for a sundae before going home to think about supper and listen to the ball game on the radio. Those who lost sons or fathers in the war spent time at the cemetery. Small flags decorated the graves of those who had died, and most folks also had flags flying at home.
Nowadays, the holiday weekend heralds the beginning of summer, the opening of city swimming pools and the start of the cookout season. In our city, it is also the time of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Many towns still have parades honoring those who died for our freedom. At our national cemeteries each grave is marked with a flag. It’s hard to keep a dry eye when confronted with all those flags fluttering in the breeze.
I enjoy all the modern trappings of the holiday, of course, but I always raise our own flag, and quietly salute those I knew and those I didn’t whose names are inscribed upon those graves.