Years ago it was called Decoration Day, today it is called Memorial Day. It is known
as a time to stop and honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their
lives during the time of war.

Betty Heath

We do so to respect those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. Decoration Day was a family occasion when I was a girl. Churches with cemeteries beside them are found in many rural areas especially in the southern states. On this special day families gathered at these cemeteries throughout the south. They came with shovels, rakes, water, flowers and picnic baskets and spent the afternoon cleaning the cemetery and decorating the graves with flowers.

After placing the flowers on the graves there would be a short memorial service complete with singing of patriotic hymns followed by dinner on the ground. Everyone would empty their picnic baskets and set all the food on tables placed outside on the church grounds. Those southern cooks brought their best fried chicken, baked ham, potato salad, sliced tomatoes, deviled eggs, baked beans, dinner rolls, homemade pickles, pies, and cakes. While the clean-up was taking place the youngsters would play hopscotch, horseshoes, croquet, tag, and have sack races.

Today much of the Memorial celebration is limited to formal services at the national cemeteries, the laying of the wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a few parades throughout the nation.

We all seem to be too busy in our nation to pay attention to the real meaning of memorial services anymore. A young man in Belgium honors American soldiers buried in an “American Cemetery” in Luxemburg. He feels he can’t walk by without stopping to say thank you. School children in the Netherlands have adopted graves of Allied servicemen and women and keep their graves clean to honor their ultimate sacrifice.

In our decades of plenty it is difficult to remember that just 75 years ago so many went without so much during WWII. Those on the home front worked hard for the war effort. Families participated in planting Victory Gardens, saving balls of string, pieces of tin foil and purchasing commodities such as gasoline, butter, and sugar with ration stamps. Automobile and bicycle tires were patched instead of buying new ones; women could only purchase nylon hose on the black market.

Recently I read a posting on the internet that our soldiers are not heroes. Being acquainted with he person who posted this statement, I just shook my head and decided he must have been drinking too much political Kool Aid lately. He has never lost a family member during a war and is too young to remember the horrors of war I witnessed as a young girl. How can anyone not think our soldiers aren’t heroes? They not only wear the uniforms and leave
their families behind, but they also pledge to be willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for ALL
people they represent while wearing that uniform.

It’s not the politicians that are our heroes; it’s our veterans. I salute all of our veterans, young and old who have fought and survived the horrors of war. Whatever battles they witnessed and/or participated in we owe them our eternal gratitude for their sacrifices so we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. They are our heroes. May we never forget.