Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday formerly and still solemn for many, that once was called Decoration Day. Its origins lie mostly in the immediate post-Civil War period with the women who decorated the graves of fallen soldiers and began a move toward a national day of mourning. According to Wikipedia, the early southern Decoration Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend to local cemeteries. The custom spread to the north and became widespread, incorporating military parades.
Decoration Day, celebrated on May 30 because of the proliferation of spring flowers, was first called Memorial Day in 1882. It wasn’t officially named that until 1967, and in 1968 became one of several national holidays to take place on a Monday rather than a date certain.
More than a million military men and women have given their lives in military service to the United States of America. Wickeds and friends, who will you remember today? In which conflict did he or she die?
Barb: I’m not aware of anyone in my family who has been killed in a war. My father served in Korea, his father in World War I, and his uncle and uncle-in-law in World War II. My great-great grandfather served in the Civil War. You can read some of his letters home to his niece, Alice, here. Ancestry.com informs me of many veterans before them, going back to the Revolution and beyond. It’s a long chain of sacrifice to bring us to today.
Sherry: Like Barb I’m not aware of anyone in my family who was killed in action. But my dad served in WWII. He’s buried in Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. While we were in Florida visiting my mom over Christmas, my husband and I were able to stop at Barancas on our way to the airport. It was a cold, rainy, windy day. But It’s a very moving place and I’m grateful to the strangers who place wreaths every year at Christmas.
Edith: My grandfather and father served in the military during World Wars I and II, and my brother is a veteran, too, but they all survived. My grandfather’s brother, Leslie Maxwell, died in combat in WWI, and my beau Hugh’s uncle Hugh William, whom he is named for, died in the Pacific in WWII. I was able to find this picture of his grave marker in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines – all I did was email his name, and they generously mailed back the digital picture. I had a print made and gave it to his youngest sibling, Hugh’s Aunt Joyce, the last living member of that Lockhart generation, who was deeply touched.
Liz: I don’t know of anyone in my family either who died in a war. My grandfather had an illness that prevented him from fighting in WWII, but he and my grandmother both volunteered in the war efforts. I remember hearing them talk about it when I was young. I remember my grandfather being disappointed he couldn’t be in the actual fight, and my grandmother being proud to have contributed in the ways she did.
Jessie: There are many veterans in my own family but none who died in conflicts. My mother’s paternal grandmother served in WWII and out ranked her own sons before the end of the war. She and her sister are the inspiration for two characters in my Change of Fortune series, Elva and Dovie Velmont. My maternal grandfather served in the Pacific theater in WWII and one of my uncles served in Vietnam. Another of my uncles served in the same time period in the Coast Guard. Knowing how their efforts colored the rest of their lives is humbling today and always.
Julie: One of my grandfather’s served in World War I, and the other served in World War II. My uncle served in Vietnam. One of the people I think about was my father’s cousin, David Holmes, who was shot down in Vietnam in 1966 and was declared dead twelve years later. He and my father were close, and he was the only child of Aunt Frances and Uncle Al. David’s loss is but one story about how one person loss has repercussions throughout a family. To all who served, or who have served, thank you.
Readers: Who do you remember today?