I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. That was a time when many families lived closer to each other, and we got together for every holiday. If I had never left Ohio today we would be at the Memorial Day Parade and then there would be a huge family picnic. I know this because it would be at my house.
I close my eyes and I go back in time 51 years to 1960. I am not quite 15 years old, and I am wearing shorts and a matching sleeveless blouse that ties at the waist – they both had to be ironed too – no permanent press then.
My pesty brother is 9 years old and running around being a pesty brother as we get ready to leave. My father is in the parade, marching with his American Legion group, and we are all lined up on the corner of Forest Ave and Ridge Road in Parma, Ohio.
My grandmother hands out our flags on sticks and we leave to honor those who fought for freedom in this world.
This is how our Memorial Days started when I was growing up.
Later in the day we would meet at one of the wonderful parks in our Metropolitan Park System for a family picnic. All my aunts, uncles and cousins would be there. We would play Badminton, we would skip stones on the river, we would take a hike. The adults would play cards, a rousing game of Canasta, which is where I learned to play that card game.
As the sun would set, we would pack up, because the mosquitos would arrive to ruin all our fun, and we would head for home.
As I grew up the meaning of Memorial Day changed. I lost friends in VietNam, and these were young men who had not even started their journey down the road of life.
Wars are tragic. As glamourous as Hollywood painted the earlier wars Hollywood changed with VietNam and wars were brought to the big screen where the real horror was portrayed.
As a young adult I remember so well taking my children to Gettysburg and seeing in my mind’s eye, the battle that took place on that ground.
Union Casualties: 23,040 Confederate Casualties: Estimated between 22,000 and 25,000
Mind blowing isn’t it? When I walked across the green I was walking not only on a battlefield but on the ghosts of 45000 soldiers.
Within the last 10 years I traveled to Normandy, and when I got out of the car I stood there and looked at all those white crosses, and I wept.