This post was originally published in 2009, but we thought it still a good way to learn about Memorial Day and share some personal stories. Happy Memorial Day Weekend 2012!
This weekend, more particularly this coming Monday, May 25, 2009, Americans will “celebrate” Memorial Day. I thought today I would spend a few minutes remembering Memorial Day, with some history, honor and humor.
As a youngster I came to know Memorial Day as May 30th, celebrated really as a day to remember those who had given their life in service to our country. It didn’t really matter what day of the week May 30th occurred, it was a Federal holiday, a day off from school and it meant we would proudly display the American Flag on our home and we would attend a parade. After all I grew up in a military town, just outside San Diego, CA, and my father was a retired Naval officer. These parades weren’t always grand, but they were a nice tradition.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Memorial Day there is a very interesting Library of Congress web page with wonderful information. Two historical items of interest:
1. “In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.”
2. “Protocol for flying the American flag on Memorial Day includes raising it quickly to the top of the pole at sunrise, immediately lowering it to half-staff until noon, and displaying it at full staff from noon until sunset.”
Additionally, I came across a History Channel presentation of the history of Taps and the playing of Taps for our fallen military. Here is the YouTube video.
Memorial Day is to be a day to honor those of our armed services who died during an American War or as a result of an American war. But since my father’s passing in 1979, I always like to honor him on days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I have talked about my father, Joseph Eagen, in other blog posts. He led a very interesting life, but what defined his adult life was his commitment to the US Navy. On December 30, 1935, at the age of 17 years 11 months, he completed his Navy enlistment application. He needed his mother’s permission to enlist! Ten months later, on October 13, 1936, his enlistment was approved. For the next 17 years he served and was retired due to a service connected disability on June 30, 1953. The photo shown here is one that I have always loved. My father is the tall one on the right. I believe it was taken in China between July 9, 1937 and November 3, 1938, when he served aboard the U.S.S. Augusta. What I love about this photo is the sheer expression of joy in my father’s sparkling eyes and smile. (By the way, the dark mark on his cheek is just a defect in a very old photo.)
Now you are probably wondering how I could ever remember Memorial Day with humor. Well, this story will take you to a day in my life at Cranmore Mountain Lodge, located in Carroll County, Town of Conway, Village of Kearsarge, New Hampshire. The year is 1987. Our country inn was situated on plus or minus seven acres and our property line went up a hill to abut the property line of the Kearsarge Cemetery. This cemetery is very, very old and it is the type of cemetery that people will often visit to do headstone rubbings.
On this Memorial Day 1987 a lady came to the inn. She introduced herself as a member of the Kearsarge Cemetery Association and she wanted to know if we were aware that our two young sons had been visiting the cemetery with her grandson, Eric. I told her I didn’t know they had climbed the hill to the Cemetery and then she asked me if I noticed that my children were running around outside with many little American Flags in their hands. I told her I had noticed that and that is when she told me that Aaron (6.5 years), Dan (3 years)and Eric (4 years) had “raided” the cemetery and removed all of the Memorial Day flags that had been placed to honor the war dead!
As you celebrate Memorial Day take time out of your weekend to remember those who gave their lives for our country. And let me know how you remember Memorial Day.
P.S. I do not know the names of the other two young men in the photo with my father. Should anyone out there in the world wide web recognize them, please let me know.