Celebrating a Quiet Memorial Day

Mon 5/25

There won’t be any Memorial Day parades this year, no chance to shake hands with a live judicial candidate, no chance for your kids to fill a shopping bag with candy, no chance to reflect on the meaning of this day.

OK, you can still do the latter at home, as you celebrate being with your family (if you invite neighbors over for a barbecue, don’t forget to social distance!), reflecting on the meaning of the day, which doubles as the traditional kickoff of summer. And it will be a different summer for sure.

Keep in mind that Memorial Day is NOT about honoring veterans and those currently serving, as many seem to think. It’s about remembering those who died. Original called Decoration Day, it arose following the carnage of the Civil War. On the first Decoration Day in 1868, Ohio’s General James A. Garfield, then a congressman who later became president in 1881, was assassinated the same year and is buried in Lake View Cemetery on Cleveland’s east side, spoke at Arlington Cemetery, while participants decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Eventually the day came to honor soldiers of other wars, including World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The red poppies some wear to mark the day arose following World War I, spurred by the poem “In Flanders Fields” (“In Flanders Fields the poppies grow/Between the crosses row on row…”), which recalled the soldiers who died on this Belgian battleground.

Some cities and some veterans groups, such as American legion and VFW posts, will be hosting virtual tributes and several cities are hosting car parades; check your city hall website.

 

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