Memorial Day Thoughts

When I was growing up in rural West Virginia, what we now call Memorial Day was Decoration Day. A few days before, the family went to the community graveyard (no fancy names then) with mowing scythes, rakes and grass clippers. We’d tidy up all the family grave sites, clean the moss from the stones, and then work on any abandoned graves, try and remember who they were.

Decoration Day Remembered

Decoration Day Remembered

On Decoration Day, we returned, dressed for church out of respect, with fresh cut flowers, maybe a flowering bush to plant, and put small American flags on the headstones of veterans. My father said a prayer and we went home to a fried chicken dinner and an unusual day of rest for him, if not my mother who still had to cook and milk the cow.

There was not so much military pomp and circumstance then as there is now, WWII took from most families, and war was a thing to be remembered, but not celebrated.

My uncle Lewis was still alive then; if you can call an alcoholic suffering from emphysema and beginning throat cancer, alive. He was in the second wave on D-Day, the day before my birth, and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. His fiancee left him about that time. His body healed, but his soul died in the war. He was not counted as a casualty of war, but he was. It took him twenty some years, but he finished the job of the war, a slow suicide. He had no lack of praise and thanks for his service, there was plenty of that, or help offered for his addictions. He died in Belgium; it was just an empty shell that I knew, that my father bailed out of jail and sobered up. He committed slow suicide and no one could help.

So today, we thank the ones who served, the ones who died, but let us not forget the ones who’s wounds you might not see.


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