Memorial Day

Last year I pointed out that Memorial Day was slipping in our collective consciousness from a day of solemn remembrance of those who died in the service of our country to just another “vacation Monday” or the marker of the start of the Summer season.

A recent experience reinforced for me just how important it is for us to make sure we never lose the deeper meaning of the day.

My wife and I traveled to Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago to witness the “arsenal of democracy” flyover. The event included over 50 WWII warplanes, and coincided with the 70th anniversary of “V-E (Victory in Europe) Day” – the defeat of Germany by Allied Forces. As an airplane buff, I found the flyover stirring. It was an historic opportunity to see the “warbirds” aloft, flying in formation, instead of on the pages of history books or on static display in a museum.

Later that afternoon, we walked along the National Mall, and visited the WWII Memorial, which sits near the Washington Monument, at the foot of the long reflecting pool facing the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial is ringed with names of famous battles of the war, and engraved with quotes from leaders of the time. There is also this wall, with over 4000 bronze stars, each of which represents 100 service members who perished, with the inscription “Here We Mark the Price of Freedom.”


We also witnessed a brief ceremony honoring a small number of WWII veterans who were there for the event. Not surprisingly, they were all old men now, their ranks nearly completely depleted by the passage of time. As I watched them salute the colors, many from their wheelchairs, it occurred to me that we are on the cusp of transition of that war from “memory” to “history.”

As inheritors of that history, and as beneficiaries of the sacrifice made by those represented by the stars on the Memorial’s wall, it is incumbent upon us to honor their memory this Memorial Day.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Memorial Day

  1. I just posted about this on a cancer site-that maybe we should honor those vets that died from cancer. Only 2 members agreed.

    Until recently, I was a volunteer ESL teacher. One Memorial Day, I commented that Memorial Day was for more than shopping. My SE Asian students said, “Yes, it’s for remembering our family.” They accused me of lying or Memorial Day recently adding service members to the mix because of Iraq. I told them to go on line and search. They showed me their government books from the community college that’s funded, and the citizenship study books from the Dept. of Immigration. Each one had a list of American Holidays, and Memorial day was glossed over. My students demanded to know why they were lied to-and demanded that the truth be taught, The American government does this so nobody’s feeling are hurt. You see, in most of the Buddhist temples, they have dog tags, some military buttons from the Marines, soldiers, and sailors that protected and saved them.

    Cyrus Weaver, great-grandpa-in Gen Dodge’s Western Union Army-Minnesota-Battle of Vicksburg and New Orleans. Was disabled from Yellow Fever during the occupation of NO.
    Joseph Snow-grandfather-left the South and fought in an Ohio Army-after the Civil War he was shunned in the South, and mistrusted in the North-He became a horse Cav Sgt out of Leavenworth and Riley.
    Carl Soar, cousin-USMC-17-killed at Iwo Jima, he was landed on the 3rd day of the invasion and knew that the medical staff was operating without anesthesia or painkillers. When you under estimate by 70%, and have heavy casualties-you run out of medical supplies before the first day was overt. The wounded were taken back to APAs-troop ships for surgery-and the kids helped care for the wounded until it was time for them to hit the beach
    Tom DeForest-husband-, USN, BMC–Viet Nam from 1964-1973. Died from Mesothelioma 08/09/2014. Advisor to the VN navy, gun captain on a destroyer that shelled support for units-asbestos was in their racks, food, and asbestos fell like snow.
    Everett Snow,uncle- Army Sgt-Ft. Riley, Kansas. Ran from rommel in North Africa, invaded Sicily, France, Battle of Huertgen Forest,Battle of the Bulge, liberated a sub camp-were the SS were burying men alive and women were locked into burning barracks. Then Korea. He died of cancer in the 1970s.
    I can go on and on- Sgt. Joseph Snow -father-Ft. Riley, Kansa-my family’s home for a 100 years. Only 3 people survived an attack from the rear by the Japanese. My father went blind in one eye and was discharged, another medic was being transported for medical evacuation, and the driver-they were attached to an artillery unit. These medics and artillery had been attached since 1936-Doctors, medics, and patients were bayoneted in the operating rooms- all patients and medics were killed-and then the artillery unit was shot in their backs.

    I won’t go on about how the Japanese-American quarterback at my highschool was an Army advisor and killed in VN, that many of my classmates were killed there.

    Thank you doctor for thinking of people like my family and friends. Time is running out and there will be another Joe Snow and Tom DeForest, but they are alive and kicking-laughing.

  2. I support the notion that Americans are losing site of the true meaning of Memorial Day and applaud the effort to remind us all to honor our fallen family and fellow Americans that fought for our freedom. I would say though that the unofficial start of the summer season is not a bad way to celebrate the occasion of Memorial Day.

  3. Dr. Nash, I work for one of the organizations that produced the flyover in DC, the Commemorative Air Force. Many of our members are World War II Veterans and were unable to attend the flyover, so I am compiling various statements and news articles for them to be able to enjoy. I would love to share your blog with our members. Would you mind if I did that?
    Thank you, Leah Block

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