The author wrote this reflection for Memorial Day 2007. However, it is worth reading again.

Well it is another Memorial Day weekend. I am at the undisclosed shore location that has provided happy respite for me all of my life. However, the weekend pause is about more than a sojourn to the New Jersey shore. The meaning of the holiday is to remember all of those that fought and died for our American freedom and lifestyle.

When I was a kid, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. People wore small red, poppies to remember the fallen of the First World War. Today you don’t see alot of poppy flowers worn to recall our war dead. Most likely you see people in flip-flops and baseball caps on their way to a long weekend break at the beach, the shore or the mountains. Parades of World War II veterans were popular when I was a kid as well. Veterans from many conflicts dusted off their old uniforms, sucked in their guts and proceeded to parade the Colors to a community park or churchyard.

Of course, the parade concluded with the mournful playing of “Taps” and the cracking volley of gunshots as a salute was rendered to the military dead. Most of the World War II veterans are now gone, or going quickly. When you see a Memorial Day celebration most people just continue on with their lives and don’t even notice the ritual that honors our war dead. There was a time when men (not in military uniform) removed their hats, military personnel saluted and everyone else placed their hand on their hearts and paid homage to our American Flag.

Today there is a half hearted and convoluted mixture of gestures that I watch people perform. Usually the perpetually placed, reverse baseball cap is never removed, no one stops for the passing of the flag, and in alot of cases there is no observation of military honors for the Flag or the war dead. Memorial Day for most Americans means complaining about the price of gasoline, traffic jams, rushing to a vacation destination and lots of alcoholic beverage consumption.

Maybe as we all get older, we recall other times. Especially times of celebration and solemnity. Memorial Day makes me remember hot early summer days that cooled off at night,closed business’, local hot dog picnics and root beer in the keg. I fondly remember veterans paying homage to the war dead,Taps and rifle shots. Then, lots of men who had a day off (Memorial Day) was not always a long holiday weekend, carrying blocks of ice to keep libations that included beer …cold.

Most of the time there was a block party…which for those that live in the modern cul-de-sac meant that the linear block was literally blocked from traffic. People moved their cars, turned on the fire plug, washed down the street and had covered dishes of food for everyone to enjoy. Most Americans today never have lived on a “block” and would never party with their neighbors.

These days were pre-Disney, pre-cable, pre-longweekend-travel and pre-yuppies. Today we go off to the shore, the beach or the mountains or multiple foreign destinations to play on our Memorial Day vacations.

But the most important thing we always remembered was Memorial Day was specifically that. A day of memorial for all of those men and women that fought and died for America’s liberty and freedom. So while you are out there this weekend driving in traffic, filling up your SUV, getting sunburned on the beach, having steaks on the barbecue grill, or even camping in a pristine mountain environment…take some time to say, THANK YOU for the men and women that made it all possible.

Those who answered their country’s call to service and paid for the privilege with their lives. Also, remember ALL of our nation’s soldiers,sailors, Marines and airmen that actively serve our country all over the globe. They are answering the age old call of service to their country…so we can enjoy that hot dog, picnic or beach stroll.

Let’s hope next Memorial Day will see them safely home…joining the rest of us in a long weekend. God Bless America! God bless our troops!

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: & & Nothing Left Unsaid!” is his daily column @ Comments are always welcome @

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