USA: Memorial Day Monday

Bill Mattocks

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I know that for many, Memorial Day in the US is just an extended weekend. Another sale at the mall. One more day to get blind drunk without having to try to stagger into work the next day.

For some of us, Memorial Day weekend is a bit more than that. It is unlike Veteran's Day, which honors all veterans of the US Armed Forces. This is to honor those who have died while wearing the uniform of our country.

On the last Monday of every May, flags in the USA are lowered to half-staff from dawn until noon. There is almost always a ceremony in local graveyards and cemeteries which have veterans interred there. A great effort is made to decorated the graves of known veterans with small US flags. Some towns and cities have parades, although those are dwindling - mostly due to apathy and indifference.

Consider this my mini-rant, my friends. Please forgive me - I get like this every year, and say the same things I always do, and wish that more people felt the way I feel. I'm a patriot, I love my nation, and sometimes it just has to come out. I beg your pardon if you find the following words offensive.

While so many of us sport decals and banners stating that 'We Support Our Troops,' most of us can't be bothered to actually do anything to show that support, beyond sticking a bumper stick on our cars. We haven't the time in our busy lives to listen to one old veteran give a speech, put flags on a few graves, or listen to a benediction in a cemetery. Too much work. Too much effort. Let someone else do it. Our lives are so busy, there's so much going on, blah, blah, blah.

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I will be at a local parade and ceremony, as I always am. I am a veteran, but I was not called to pay the price that the men and women we offer our respects to on Monday were called to pay. Whether I agree with this war or that police action, whether I think various troops died in vain or actually defending our nation's freedoms, I offer my respect to them all. They were called, they went, they died. You are alive. How about taking a half-day out of your oh-so-busy life and saying 'thank you' to people who cannot enjoy this long weekend themselves?

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I'm sure people have lots of good reasons they cannot attend local parades and ceremonies, lots of reasons why they can't put a couple flags on a couple graves, but in the end, I only know this - attendance is dwindling, year by year. I am there, so I watch it and I know. You who claim to support the troops - where are you? No one is asking you to put on a uniform and go in harm's way - just stand silently and offer up a prayer or a good thought for the souls or the memories of those who gave up their lives when asked by our nation. Is that really too much to ask?

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Anyway, end of rant. I hope everyone has a good Memorial Day weekend, keep it safe, sane, and sober. Drive carefully and watch out for kids.

Semper Fidelis

Bill Mattocks, former Sgt, USMC
 

zDom

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For our Sunday edition, I interviewed Mike Ralph, a local man who was recently awarded the Silver Star (upgrade from a Bronze Star in '66) for heroic action as a crew chief for a Huey working LZ X-Ray during the Battle of Ia Drang (seen "We We're Soldiers" with Mel Gibson?)

While his Huey was an assault chopper for bringing men into the landing zone, the medevacs wouldn't come for the wounded so they volunteered, bringing ammo on the way in and bringing wounded back on the way out.

Direct quotes (excuse typos if there are any, typed this in a hurry) from the General Order Number 1155 awarding him the Bronze Star with "V" Device:

"the landing zone was the scene of a highly contested battle between American troops and a PAVN unit with the Americans receiving heavy casualties. As Specialist Four Ralph's aircraft landed and began loading the wounded soldiers aboard, extremely accurate enemy fire killed or wounded the infantry as they carried the wounded toward the helicopters. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Specialist Four Ralph left his helicopter and went to the aid of the wounded and assisted in carrying them to his helicopter despite the intense hostile fire in the area. After loading the wounded immediately adjacent to his aircraft he scouted away from his helicopter in search of other wounded personnel who needed assistance. After satisfying himself that he had given all possible assistance he gave the pilot the signal for departure. Specialist Four Ralph continued to care for the wounded enroute to the medical aid station rendering first aid and preventing shock as much as possible."

Please note, Ralph was NOT a medical officer on a medical 'copter. He was a crew chief (mechanic) on a transport assault chopper.

There are entire families today who, though they don't know his name, exist because of him and his crewmates.

On the other hand, as he told me:

"It was a long day and we lost a lot of people that day. I had four people die in my arms that day and thats just hard to take. That was the first time but it wasnt the last time.

By looking at him, you wouldn't know you were meeting a hero. Just an average, nice seeming guy.

We were just kids doing a job that we were supposed to do, he said.

I often find myself tearing up when I write these kind of stories ...

Happy Memorial Day.
 

Empty Hands

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The dead don't need parades and flags. Those are for the living. I choose to honor their sacrifice in a different way, and a way that is not restricted to one day out of the year.
 
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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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The dead don't need parades and flags. Those are for the living.

Quite true.

I choose to honor their sacrifice in a different way, and a way that is not restricted to one day out of the year.

To each, their own. Memorial Day is simply a day our nation has set aside for calling to mind their sacrifice together, as a nation.
 

grydth

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At least we are doing something.....tomorrow my daughters and I will be part of the effort putting flags at veterans' gravesites. Sunday, my youngest daughter's Girl Scout Troop lays a wreath at the local Veterans' Monument after marching in the parade.

I do share the sentiment that the living veterans need to be honored - and cared for, and that task is not limited to a day. But this is a good start, and it shows the survivors - and our potential enemies - that we do not forget.
 

Sukerkin

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Whether I agree with this war or that police action, whether I think various troops died in vain or actually defending our nation's freedoms, I offer my respect to them all. They were called, they went, they died. You are alive. How about taking a half-day out of your oh-so-busy life and saying 'thank you' to people who cannot enjoy this long weekend themselves?

That is such an important sentiment, Bill.

I echo it from across the Atlantic.

We primarily have Armistice Day to show such fellow feeling and I strongly believe it should be a public holiday to allow people to more actively show what it means. The two minutes silence across the nation is a very powerful thing to experience tho' and that might be lost if it were a holiday. Rememberance Sunday is also a time in which we can thank those that fell so that we might stand.
 

shesulsa

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We (my family) takes time each year to educate ourselves (mildly for the kids) somewhat on a fairly local memorial or cemetary, take time to remember the dead in our lives and how war has touched our family ... blessedly lightly since WWII and Vietnam.

Others we know have not been so lucky.

The scouts in our area have the cemeteries covered in flowers and flags each year but we find a place for a flower or 12.

Thanks for serving, Bill and everyone else here.
 

shesulsa

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In light of Bill's excellent thread, I will be going to the cemetery tomorrow and tending a few graves that seem to go uncared for.

If anyone reading has never done this, it is customary for a family members of the deceased to care for the marker(s) on a grave; most people leave this up to the cemetary or other volunteers.

What to bring:


  • grass clippers
  • small spade or chisel
  • sack
  • camera
  • possibly newsprint and a crayon for a rubbing
  • flowers and/or flag

What to do:


  • Avoid standing on the earth above the buried remains if possible.
  • Clip the grass growing over the edges of the stone if it's a flat footmarker or headmarker. If a headstone or footstone, make sure all blades near the stone are no higher than the surrounding grass. Some people like to give a slim clearance - check with the cemetery as to any restrictions.
  • Use the small spade or chisel to remove isolated stubbon weeds.
  • Examine the marker/stone. If you find damage, noticeable wear or vandalism, take a photograph of the marker/stone and make a rubbing as well.
  • Check the finish of the marker - some can be refinished, others can't.
  • Communicate any and all vandalisms or out-of-the-ordinary wear and tear to the family and to the cemetery management. Some stones/markers can be repaired or touched up, others can't.
  • Pray or meditate if you do. If you do not, take a moment to think about what your life is worth to those around you and to acknowledge that this person's life was worth something to others too.
Thank you, all those who have ever served and/or are currently serving your country in the military, emergency response and law enforcement.
 

Bob Hubbard

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[SIZE=+4]In Flanders Fields[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]Canadian Army[/SIZE] [SIZE=+1]In Flanders Fields the poppies blow[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]Between the crosses row on row,[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]That mark our place; and in the sky[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]The larks, still bravely singing, fly[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]Scarce heard amid the guns below.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]We are the Dead. Short days ago[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]Loved and were loved, and now we lie[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]In Flanders fields.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]Take up our quarrel with the foe:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]To you from failing hands we throw[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]The torch; be yours to hold it high.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]If ye break faith with us who die[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]We shall not sleep, though poppies grow[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+1]In Flanders fields.[/SIZE]
 

grydth

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They read that at the ceremony here today..... wonder how many people knew McCrae himself joined the ranks of the First World War dead in January, 1918. Many years later he was pictured on a Canadian postage stamp.
 
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