Memorial Day 2014

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by Terry Martin-Back

Terry Martin-Back

Terry Martin-Back

Memorial Day will be celebrated across our nation on May 26th with cook-outs, ceremonies and those fantastic Memorial Day Sales to go along with the beginning of summer activities. Memorial Day is not the same for everyone, it has a special meaning to me. For me, today’s celebrations of Memorial Day, is not what our family did, a half century ago, we called it Decoration Day.

Legend has it Decoration Day started in the South, when widows and mothers of fallen Confederate soldiers were busy clearing the graves of their loved ones and couldn’t bear to watch the union soldier’s burial area become overgrown. Not only did they clear the area, but placed flowers upon the graves, knowing somewhere a widow or mother didn’t know where their soldier was but knew they were never coming home.

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Flash forward one hundred years, remembering my southern family tradition of working all day Saturday and Sunday, of Decoration Day weekend, in the hills of Southeastern Kentucky. Clearing the family cemeteries, repairing fences, trimming trees, filling in sunken graves and preparing for our families Decoration Day celebration. As our families gathered to eat in picnic style, kids running about the yard, adults talked among themselves, waiting for the arrival of the flora to decorate the cemeteries. Soon the flora would arrive, lunch was served and as the last piece of pie was removed from the pan, the adults moved to the truck that carried the flora wreaths and crosses of roses with red white and blue ribbons. Soon all the children were shushed and directed to the cemetery to wait for grandparents and senior family members to make their way through the lines of family.

Harry Watson

Harry Watson

As flowers were placed upon the graves, our nation’s flag was placed in the holders, the markers and graves which brought the most tears were those whose lives ended defending our nation. Many years before, my uncle, Sergeant Harry Watson fell victim to a snipers bullet in France. The grave of an uncle who died from exposure in Europe during WWI and an uncle who was wounded in Tennessee during battle, brought home to die from the wounds sustained. I knew all the stories and could see the pain in the watery eyes of the grownups as they relived the memories.

I mentioned the name of my uncle, only because we often walk past markers, read their names or hear them called out during ceremonies, but there is never a face to reflect upon. So when you walk past a marker, read the names, there is a face that went along with the name and a family who will remember the pain.

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We don’t seem to make the time to teach our children traditions of old. Decoration Day is Memorial Day and I will for ever have the memories of what Memorial Day really is; a time to remember those who stood before us, to defend us, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and family.
Memorial Day is a reminder to remember.

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