UPDATE: May 2020
Memorial Day in the Times of Covid-19
When I first wrote this Memorial Day post in 2016 …
my WWII and Korean War vet father was still alive. Always the teacher, his telling of his wartime experiences as quartermaster of a naval ship in the South Pacific made history come alive. Since he went home to be with Mama in 2017, their memories of our family’s Greatest Generation make Memorial Day even more poignant and meaningful for us.
Memorial Day 2020 comes during a fight against an insidious virus that has shut down nations and sent humanity bunkering down for months. As the world slowly emerges from quarantine, I believe it’s also appropriate on this day to remember from-line workers, who lost their lives keeping us safe or helping the sick, as well as the 94,948* Americans at the time of this writing who succumbed to Covid-19.
* source: worldometers.info
The long holiday weekend ahead in the USA is summer’s unofficial kickoff, but Memorial Day is actually a somber occasion to honor those who served their country.
We proudly hang the colors. Gather with neighbors for a block party, where everyone brings their fave summer dish for a feast we look forward to all year. We’re thankful to live in a country where we can enjoy sharing friendship, food, and laughter.
My dad and uncles saw combat during WWII, from tanks in France to boots on the ground in Iwo Jima.
Mama's older brother, our Uncle Bruce, never talked about his Army days holed in his tank or what he experienced in the European campaign. But he could never keep a job outside of familiar work on Grandma Ethel's farm. He was always gentle with us, but Mama's brother became anxious and left the room whenever we kids were around him with the normal kid mayhem.
With the hindsight of an adult and 21st-century knowledge, I believe my uncle suffered from PTSD.
Dad's brother, our Uncle Nick, was a sweet red-haired former Marine, who loved teasing and playing with us. But I remember sitting on Grammy Chris' porch with him and listening to fireworks one July Fourth. "I can't stand that noise," he told me. To him, the fireworks that delighted us reminded him of the killing fields of battle.
My favorite WWII Quartermaster saw action in the South Pacific aboard the USS Elmore, and he later served in the Korean War stationed at Guantanamo Bay.
Enlisting at age 18, Dad was on the Elmore's bridge and survived its many attacks by Kamikaze fighters.
We were blessed to have had Dad for his 92 years. He shared his wartime experiences and helped us understand.
He always told us how how fortunate he felt to have returned from war when many other he knew never came home.
His gratitude mixed with sadness showed as he told me about the war's end in a 1995 oral interview:
"We had just received orders
to engage the Japanese fleet
and were sailing there
when we got word
the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
It was a terrible thing,
but for us,
it meant the end of our fight."
~ oral interview by Cat Michaels with her WWII and Korean War Vet father - 1995
Dad also met the beautiful Queen of the USO in Everett, WA, when he was stationed there before shipping off to war. (I still have scores of sweet old letters she kept from lonely servicemen. They wrote to her in her capacity of USO queen, and she happily took on her role to raise their spirits on the front.)
You guessed it!
That beauty married the handsome sailor after the war, and they became this baby boomer's parents -:D.
I never know how to greet people on this Monday holiday.
I feel silly wishing them a "happy" Memorial Day. "Happy" isn't the right word to describe this reverent occasion.
So, safe travels if you're on the road this long holiday weekend. Enjoy your cookouts, bike rides and extra time to sleep in Monday morning.
(2020 Covid Update: Wow - life has changed since 2016.)
But let’s also take a moment to reflect and give thanks for those who sacrificed, so we can enjoy our freedom today.
(2020 Covid Update: Our appreciation remains!)
From my front porch, the heart of our home,
to you and yours....
a Memorial Day holiday
all good things.
With Memorial Day 2020 arriving as we break out of quarantine, how are you spending the weekend in your Coronaville? Travel? Stay home? Video virtual picnic? Social-distance block party? TV binge? What's a weekend?!? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Photo Credit: my favorite Quartermaster now and then: Norwalk Hour
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