Memorial Day 2018

May 25, 2018

All Posts, Editorials

Memorial Day 2018

Memorial Day remains a black moment of grief just before the bright celebration of summer.

Memorial Day should remind every American that we are a free and happy people because some free and happy boys set down their bats, balls and gloves to die for all the rest of us – in the Civil War, the Spanish War, the Great War, the Second Great War, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

They didn’t die to be remembered as heroes. Nobody remembers their names. They didn’t expect to die. No boy expects to die. But they invited death because they were encouraged to believe in their own magical invincibility and because they thought they should do their duty. They thought facing death was what they were supposed to do. They thought everyone they knew would always be ashamed of them if they acted like cowards instead of doing what they were supposed to do.

They went far away foolishly with flags waving in their eyes or grudgingly because they thought they had no choice. They grumbled, complained and screwed up. They trudged through mud. They slept in the rain. They heard the loudest sounds they ever heard and felt the coldest they ever felt. They were the thirstiest they ever were and the dirtiest they ever were and the hungriest. They shot at shadows. They shook with fear. They were carelessly brave. They were cruel as demons. They were sweet as maidens. They ran the fastest they ever ran. They were proud and ashamed. They grew old before their times. They became the wisest they would ever be. And then they just never came home. Then, they were just gone.

Eight hundred fifty thousand men and boys never came home between 1861 and 1865. Another 2,500 never returned from the hardly remembered little wars in Cuba and the Philippines. One-hundred-sixteen-thousand-five-hundred-sixteen died in the The War To End War and 405,399 died in the war after that. Thirty-six-thousand-five-hundred-seventy-four died in Korea. Fifty-eight-thousand-two-hundred-nine died in Vietnam. Three-hundred-eighty-three died in the Gulf War. So far, almost 7,000 have never returned from the continuing wars in the Middle East.

Every death shot a hole in what might have been.

Worse, as T.E. Lawrence the hero of Arabia noticed, “An individual death, like a pebble dropped in water, might make but a brief hole; yet rings of sorrow widened out there from.”

Memorial Day is the lacing of those rings. It began in the South in 1864 as Decoration Day, as a day to tend the graves of the war dead. The notion spread quickly. The rings of sorrow were without boundaries. There was an observance of Decoration Day in the North, in Carbondale, in Southern Illinois, on April 29, 1866, The keynote speaker at the memorial service was Union Major General John A. Logan.

Logan’s wife. Mary, later wrote that he got the idea from her after she visited a Confederate cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia and “saw the withered flowers and flags that had been placed in honor of the Confederates buried there…. She described this to her husband and said he should do something similar.”

General Logan was the commander of a Union Veteran’s group called the Grand Army of the Republic and two years later at Arlington National Cemetery he asked his veterans to decorate the final resting places of both the Union and Confederate dead “with the choicest flowers of springtime.”

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.” He wrote. “Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Logan’s was a more romantic and poetic age. His were the sort of words that politicians no longer bother to compose in the age of Twitter. Nevertheless, the idea of Memorial Day still strikes a chord.

The carnage of the Civil War and its suffering was so great that today about 25 cities and towns claim to have invented Memorial Day. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson named Waterloo, New York its official birthplace.

The name Memorial Day did not appear until 1882 but a decade later the holiday was observed in most of the country and by then the Army and the Navy had both adopted regulations about its observance.

After the First World War, the holiday became a remembrance of all the nation’s war dead. Until 1971, it was an unofficial holiday, a sort of folk holiday, observed on May 30. Since then it has become an official holiday, commemorated on the last Monday in May.

Most people today talk about “celebrating” Memorial Day and the original meaning of the day officially shrank to a “Moment of Remembrance” in 2000. That year Congress passed a law encouraging all Americans to pause wherever they were at three on Memorial Day afternoon and stay silent for a minute to remember and honor the boys who died so that we might remain happy and free.

It is a nice, respectful idea.

If you have never known anybody who died in an American war a minute might be enough. They died, after all, so that all the rest of us could peacefully enjoy our barbecues, motorcycle rides, baseball games, trips to the mall and so on. They didn’t die so we should die, too. They perished that we might endure.

But if you have ever known a boy who left and just never came back you should know you don’t have to celebrate Memorial Day. You can mourn it instead. And, you will not be alone.

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46 Responses to “Memorial Day 2018”

  1. Haole Says:

    Rebel,

    Much thanks for this piece, Memorial Day I corrected a young man wishing me a “Happy Memorial Day”.

    Rather than dress him down, I explained to him that today is a day of rememberance and reflection for Brother’s and Sister’s in Arms who never came home, Veterans Day a day to be happy.

    He seemed to take the correction well, but who really knows.

    Life is Fleeting,
    Separation is Temporary,
    Reunion Eternal.

    See ya soon Brothers and Sisters
    GBNF
    Haole

    US Army Retired
    1986-2018

  2. panamaa Says:

    Rebel……….. Nice Piece…

  3. backsmith Says:

    Nice, Rebel

    850k in the Civil War.
    Hard to imagine standing yards and feet from each other blasting lead at each other, then reload and do it again till one line fell or broke.

  4. freebird Says:

    @ Mad Midget

    Please tell me the history on your name…… WTF?

  5. Mad Midget Says:

    “Eloquence” hardly describes your talent. It’s an honor and a privilege to read your words. Thank you, Rebel, and God bless all us vets, with us and without

  6. troyez Says:

    Amen Rebel.
    troyez

  7. Thinking Phase Says:

    Yup. Beautiful. Thank you. Thank them.

  8. Glenn Gustitus Sr Says:

    Amen.

  9. Wretched Man Says:

    Thank you Rebel
    What an inspiring reminder for us all, although I’m not in the USA I have served in combat, and buried brothers with sometimes empty caskets, the ravages of war should never be celebrated.
    Thank you for your poignant, and very heartfelt explanation that so many can relate to.
    I like what Phuquehed said happens in Israel where they HONOR their fallen, as opposed to being forgotten and cast aside by your country.

    Respects
    wretched

  10. Phuquehed Says:

    Over in Israel, the ‘memorial day’ the whole nation stops, literally, for a full minute, to remember. Traffic, you name it. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s signalled with the air-raid sirens, then one minute later signalled again and everyone goes on their way.

    I sure wish this was soemthing done here in the states, as there’s an awful lot of people who need to pull their fucking heads out, get off their fucking texting, and quit being so mother-fucking ‘me me me’ and remember those who don’t get to do any fun things anymore so the ‘me me me’ crowd can.

  11. Nick Mead Says:

    X

  12. Beemer-CM Says:

    Well crafted words Rebel.
    Thanks
    US Army RVN ’71-’72

  13. DocB Says:

    Nice piece Rebel. Thank You
    Repects
    Doc

  14. Ptk Says:

    In memory of:
    Ross Bedient
    US Army Spec 4
    KIA July 13 1970
    Republic of VIet Nam.

  15. Agnarr Says:

    While we remember those we lost during periods of conflict, lets not forget to tske time to remember those that died in service during peace-time. I imagine that they are still missed by their family and friends.

    I personally can speak of one soldier that was lost from my section and unit; as I was just starting to clear the post for transfer back state-side from my tour in Western Germany. HE paid a dear price for his poor decision not to wait for help in moving a couple of portable “5-ton” generators off a duece-and-a-half.

    Bruce, you are still remembered.

    Ssgt Robert V. Black II
    U.S. Army, Veteran ’85 – ’91

  16. Snow Says:

    Much respect and gratitude to those who gave their all for this country, when the call came yall stood the line come hell or high water.
    To their surviving families, Thank You

  17. drifter Says:

    Freebird wrote; “The Highest Respect is never forget. Great article Rebel! Touched the soul…”

    Well said. Respects and extreme gratitude for the Fallen and the Families that suffered.

    Excellent work Rebel, Thank You….

  18. Michael Vos Says:

    Rebel, the way you write puts the Hemingways and othwr historical writers to shame. I teared up readimg this recognizing your followers are not a teary group. I gave to your money raise. Dont leave us. Do it regularly.

  19. RtC Says:

    Want to wish a SAFE & reflective Memorial Day for all of my fellow Veterans.

    Respects for the REAL & especially for REBEL
    Redwolf the Conchoman

  20. MtPockets Says:

    Well written as always, Rebel.
    Thank you.

  21. freebird Says:

    The Highest Respect is never forget. Great article Rebel! Touched the soul…

  22. Penguin Says:

    Only last year a Good Man died – here’s his ship… He was bosun on:

    http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-uss-goodhue-a-torrent-of-kamikazes-at-okinawa/

    Two weeks of suicide attacks…they got cargo ordnance up under fire and used jury rigged guns on deck as well as the mounted guns…

    Eagle Scout, bosun, fireman, Airport Security. His principles never changed. These were to do what’s right, and pretty much what you must do…and what makes for happy kids and healthy communities over the long term. He obeyed the laws of God, and sometimes the laws of the Country – saying often that a man simply must do what’s right. I have his ashes, and the cruise book, and some other personal stuff.

    He volunteered in 1938…

    Bless him and his shipmates.

    Memorial Day is a good time to look both ahead, and behind. As to another holy day, “Veteran’s Day”, well, I am an old timer and I still say, by the way, Armistice Day…and note that the pacific sentiment is better than the bellicose.

  23. Mountain Cruiser Says:

    Well said. Nothing to add.

    MC

  24. Curbside Says:

    While we remember the fallen, it would do us well to keep in our prayers the loved ones who stood beside them in battle. They may have made it home, but a lot of their friends didn’t.

  25. Bone Head Says:

    Rebel,
    You write something every year at this time and others contribute. While I remember a couple I went to school with that rest in the county’s cemetery, I try not to think of how they died. But it seems appropriate this time of year. To remember how and where, and to remember I might not have returned.

    No disrespect Rebel, but it all hurt; I don’t know to damn you or thank you.

  26. Azbrick Says:

    Every year I read what you have posted about Memorial Day and am reminded of why I joined the military myself…I would’ve given my life for my country but thankfully didn’t have to. Those that did deserve the utmost honor and respect.

  27. SharkRib Says:

    In my family a boy of 19 died fighting for the Union at Baltimore. My great uncle survived WWI. My father fought at Normandy and was wounded at the Bulge but survived to raise a family. In my own way I tried to honor them with my peacetime service in the USCG 89-99.

    Thank you for this article and thank you for your service Rebel. Let us never forget.

  28. stroker Says:

    I served with the 7th Fleet in the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam conflict. I was lucky. I was on a ship. I came home. I was just as reviled by the American public as any Vietnam vet was, but I came home. I lost more than a few brothers over there.
    I will “celebrate” Memorial Day as I always do. A personal ride to my local cemetery. There I will plant a new flag for my buddy/brother/biker/soldier Chuck. I will salute him, as I always do, and maybe drink a little whiskey with him, remembering our good times.
    Then I will turn from his gravesite, and find the gal petty officer’s stone just nearby Chuck’s grave. I will make sure she has a flag too. Many times she doesn’t. She served during Vietnam too…..you can read that much on her stone. But there’s not much more info…..and because it’s a simple stone, flush with the ground, the cemetery caretakers miss giving her a flag, oft as not. But I will salute her too, and place a small flag if she has none. Then I will stroll the rest of the grounds, observing the final resting places of other vets, of my war, and other wars.
    Then I will ride home.
    My soul saddened, but refreshed too.
    I will not forget.

  29. oregon jim Says:

    RIP Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith

    Jim
    USA CIB
    Iraq 2003

  30. Crazy Harry Says:

    It’s really a hard time during Memorial day here in this house thinking about the Marines I served with and knowing how it affects all vets in all branches. We may joke about our inter service rivalries and everyone is better then the other but that’s for us to do because only we understand and respect each other. A civilian that has never been will never understand. When one of us goes down it’s personal not just 6 o’clock news it’s a brother. Bikers are the same way this is our brotherhood and many of us are vets. All I can say is an extended “Semper Fi” to all my bro’s. If they are remembered they are still here.

  31. TX_Biker Says:

    The Final Inspection
    The soldier stood and faced his God
    Which must always come to pass
    He hoped his shoes were shining
    Just as brightly as his brass

    “Step foward now you soldier,
    How shall I deal with you?
    Have you always turned the other cheek,
    And to my church have you been true?”

    The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
    “No Lord, I guess I ain’t,
    Because those of us who carry guns,
    Can’t always be saints

    “I’ve had to work most Sundays
    And at times my talk was tough
    And sometimes I’ve been violent
    Because the streets were awfully rough”

    But I never took a penny,
    That was’nt mine to keep
    Though I worked a lot of overtime
    When the bills just got to steep,

    And I never passed a cry for help
    Although, at times I shook with fear
    And sometimes, God forgive
    I’ve wept unmanly tears

    I know I don’t deserve a place
    Among the people here
    That never wanted me around
    Except to calm there fears

    If you have a place for me here O’ Lord
    It needn’t be so grand
    I’ve never expected, or had so much
    But if you don’t I’ll understand”

    There was a silence all around the throne
    Where the Saints had often trod
    As this soldier waited quietly
    For the judgment from his God

    “Step foward now you soldier,
    You’ve borne your
    burdens well
    Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
    You’ve done your time in Hell”

  32. Paladin Says:

    I have come to realize the true meaning of Memorial Day

    Memorial Day is a day that has very little to do with this Country’s fallen soldiers and a lot to do with this Country’s retailer’s exploitation of our fallen soldiers in the discounting and hocking of their wares. So as not to seem discriminatory, retailers exploit Veteran’s Day for the very same reasons. The retailer’s behavior is the more offensive on Memorial Day, due to the fact that the sales events take place on what is supposed to be a day of remembrance and reflection on those that paid the ultimate (non-discounted) price, so retailers and consumers alike can carry on.

    With the exception of the European invasion that destroyed and enslaved the North American Indian, this Country is unique in the fact that other than the British, this Country has never been invaded or occupied by a foreign nation. As such, the citizenry of this Country has never experienced the death, destruction and very real horror of an invading and occupying force.

    With the exception of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil war, this Country’s soldiers have always fought and died on foreign soil. In modern times, this Country’s citizenry has been insulated from the true horrors of war. If this Country’s citizenry had to step over or around the mangled and lifeless bodies of its soldiers in order to get to their Memorial Day discounts, the very real sacrifices of our Country’s soldiers might be brought into sharper focus.

    Am I bitter about the way our fallen soldiers are remembered and the way our veterans and those that serve are treated? Yes. Do I think that all of this Country’s citizens are uncaring, greedy little Lemmings? No. However, this Country’s government is a direct reflection of the citizenry that elected it. If this Country is to truly honor its fallen soldiers, veterans and those that serve, the citizenry of this Country must demand that its government honor its fallen soldiers, veterans and those that serve.

    Paladin

  33. Old & Jaded Says:

    God bless these brave soldiers and their families. I honor you and will always appreciate your sacrifices. Unending thanks to all that have served.

    “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

  34. El Jefe' Says:

    Well written article Rebel, really touched a nerve.

    Semper Fi

    Respects to those who have Earned it…

  35. just tom Says:

    Very well written Rebel. Thank you.

  36. Oregon Moose Says:

    Amen

  37. Filburt Says:
  38. Trebor Says:

    Was just at the local National cemetary.So tough seeing the markers.Many I knew.
    U.S.Army

  39. Bill Says:

    All gave some, some gave all.

    -Bill US Army 00-04

  40. Desdicado Says:

    Amen.

  41. PTK Says:

    Well written,

  42. Lurch Says:

    Damn you Rebel, and thank you.
    I was feeling a little “off” today.
    I was in Germany when the wall fell, I saw Panama and Grenada, I watch tracer rounds fly over the sands of Iraq.

    I remember… I remember…

  43. The Kraut Says:

    I remember those who never got to get older and return to raise families.

    They likely never considered they would’nt get home alive, but did their duty and served our people as sheepdogs guard their flocks.

    They were us and we are them…they deserve more than we can repay in a hundred lifetimes.

    Let us never forget.

    Respects, Kraut

  44. Gordo Says:

    To the fallen

    Lest we forget

    I’m alive today because my grandfather survived the great war and my father survived ww2

    I’ve lucked out and haven’t had to serve my country with my life

    Thx to those who have fallen

    I remind people that my freedom and theirs is a result of our soldiers
    blood in the soil

    The ultimate sacrifice

    Thx again

  45. Dirty Dingus McGee Says:

    Honor the war dead in the same manner you honor the members of your club who have passed before you.

    It’s the right thing to do.

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