Memorial Day, 2014. It’s a bumper-sticker sort of holiday.
Land of the Free, Thanks to the Brave. America, Love It or Leave It. Freedom Isn’t Free; Thank a Veteran.
Too, a sand-in-your-shoes sort of day. Fishing, swimming, boating.
But before the beach-side picnics, before the backyard barbecues, a simple request: Stop and remember the meaning behind the holiday, observed since the Civil War era.
The fourth Monday of May is about much more than time tacked onto a weekend for a three-day-off package.
It’s about paying respects to millions of deceased Americans, enlisted or drafted, who served our country. It’s about remembering those who bravely fought on faraway fields.
In cemeteries across the country today, the Stars and Stripes decorate veterans’ graves.
PHOTO GALLERY: Flags placed at veterans‘ graves in Wauseon
Numbers increase, noted Lee Armstrong, executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission. A few years ago, about 50,000 flags were placed on graves in cemeteries in the county, compared to nearly 54,000 this year.
Although some patriots bemoan picnics taking priority over Memorial Day events, Mr. Armstrong said it seems more people are paying attention to the importance, and the value, of spending time on the holiday to reflect, to honor, to remember.
“I think Memorial Day is not forgotten because veterans are ensuring that it is not forgotten,” he said.
It’s not just about the past, he pointed out.
We walk with heroes. Wars continue. Bombs, bullets. Killed in action.
“They are still dying,” Mr. Armstrong said.
On a recent afternoon under gun-metal gray clouds, a shout went up. “I need more flags!”
Troop 8 Boy Scouts had fanned out in Wauseon Union Cemetery to place about 700 flags on graves of veterans, including Arthur F. Erney, World War I; Clyde Young, World War II; Melvin Neifer, Korea, and Hiram Prichard, who served in the Civil War.
Jacob Manz, immediate past commander of the American Legion Post 265 in Wauseon, told Scouts that the cemetery is the final resting place for military personnel from many wars.
Traditions of Troop 8 — marking its 75th anniversary — include taking part in Memorial Day activities. Troop 8 Scouts have placed flags on veterans’ graves annually for 22 years.
Curt Fauver, committee member of Troop 8, reminded scouts to place flags with dignity for those who fought and died for our freedom and liberties.
“Pay respect they earned and deserve,” said Mr. Fauver, whose father Frank, a World War II veteran, was superintendent of the cemetery for 32 years; he died in February, and Troop 8 Boy Scout Shawn Hanson planned to place a flag on his great-grandfather Frank’s grave.
Lori Johnson, troop committee chairman, placed a flag on the grave of her uncle, Harold Snow, a Korean veteran, who died two years ago. Her twin sons, Cory and Conner Johnson, are scouts in the troop. The flag placement, she said, gives the scouts a chance to show respect to their country.
All too soon, it was a broad stripes-and-bright-stars cemetery scene. North, south, east, or west. In the shadows of the pines, in the whispers of the wind. Old Glory fluttered from hundreds of graves.
Boy Scout Luke Borsos said it is vital for America to remember. “If people today stop honoring the veterans and those who died in combat, then nobody will.”
Flags won’t just fly in cemeteries, but from front porches, backyard flagpoles, along city sidewalks, in patriotic-themed parades accented with the ruffle of drums.
After a Memorial Day parade in Maumee, a wreath ceremony will honor local residents who have served our country. Their names, one by one, will be recited. In addition, one local living military veteran from each war since World War II will be recognized and honored, said Maumee Mayor Richard Carr.
“The young men who left their homes, their families, our city, and our country, and never returned home, having died in combat, should never be forgotten. Especially by their hometown. It is a reminder that the freedoms we have as Americans are the result of the sacrifices of so many who came from among us,” Mayor Carr said.
In the city of Sylvania, the annual Memorial Day parade is well-attended. “I always receive many positive comments about the patriotic Memorial Day events, especially from veterans,” said Mayor Craig Stough.
Veterans. People behind the sacrifice. Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents.
They fought, and many died, at such places as Lexington, Gettysburg, Verdun, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Baghdad, Kabul, and Fallujah.
At the Chosin Reservoir. At Porkchop Hill. Each and all ... a Heartbreak Ridge.
Contact Janet Romaker at: email@example.com or 419-724-6006.