When first created in May 1868, this holiday was called Decoration Day and was meant to commemorate fallen heroes who served during the Civil War. It was after World War I that the holiday was renamed Memorial Day and became a day to honor and remember all fallen veterans. My dad, Raymond F. Ross, was one of those veterans. He served in World War II; in fact, he was at Iwo Jima when the flag was raised there, caught in the now iconic image of the day.
As a kid growing up, I always knew Dad had served in the military. He was patriotic, flying the flag for all appropriate holidays when my parents lived in their house and then their apartment. He was outspoken about preserving our rights. He supported the American government, no matter what. But it was not until I was in 4th grade doing a report on Japan that I talked with him about his time in the war. He shared with me the items he had brought home—a bayonet, family photos taken off Japanese soldiers, a few photos of Dad in uniform. There wasn’t much to share. He was not gung-ho about his time in the war—he shared just the facts of where and when and the basics of his actions. It was apparent that his service had been his duty to his country, an obligation he willingly met.
I’m thinking of Dad a lot today as it is the first Memorial Day since his death—and what would have been his 94th birthday was just the other day. I’m very proud of my dad and his military service. Others in the family have served as well: grandfather, uncles, cousins, even a niece-in-law. I have friends, colleagues and even students who continue to serve their country through military service today. Even though I am not a fan of war and I do not think our military should be deployed everywhere they are currently serving, I am proud of all who have served and who continue to serve and appreciate their service and sacrifice..
These soldiers—past and present—deserve our honor, respect, and ongoing support. Letting them know how appreciative we are is what Memorial Day is all about. So today—while you travel and enjoy barbeques and take advantage of a holiday sale—remember to honor those who serve. Fly the flag. Shake hands with someone in uniform and say “Thank you!” Tend a gravesite, attend a Memorial Day Parade, or visit one of the many memorials set up to honor our veterans. Donate or volunteer for such worthy programs as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Honor Flight. Do something to show you care!
To help you celebrate Memorial Day, here is a video of Toby Keith singing “American Soldier.” Enjoy!
HOW ARE YOU CELEBRATING MEMORIAL DAY?