It comes the last Monday in the month of May and today we call it Memorial Day. When I was a kid it was often called Decoration Day, and in the small East coast town where I was raised, it was a mighty special day.
At the center of town stood a monument to the brave soldiers who gave their lives in service to our country. I loved that monument, not just for its majesty -- indeed it was majestic -- but because it was situated at the center of a roundabout on a lovely flower-laden circle, a circle that united the many corners of my community.
Come Memorial Day that community would gather at the top of the Palisades on which our lovely town was built: The dignitaries, the old and young, people of all colors, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, the fireman -- and the marching bands. Oh, how I loved to watch the twirlers toss their beautiful gold batons to the sun, and listen to the rat-a tat-tat of the uniform-clad drummers.
Leading the parade was always the oldest living survivor of World War I looking proud and grand – bedazzling -- wearing full military regalia. Walking behind him were the veterans who had given their service in the second Great War; all who participated the dignified survivors of the wars to protect our nation -- the walking museum of America’s military might.
I remember the passion with which my Brownie Troop and later Girl Scout Troop took our practice for our participation in that yearly event. The Annual Memorial Day Parade was serious business. It was surely a great honor to hold our troop’s colors, but an even greater one to carry the Grand Old Flag.
For weeks we marched and worked diligently for our badges that would adorn our uniforms that day. Finally, that morning in May arrived. I can remember waking early to make certain that the sun was shining and that there were no clouds on the horizon in anticipation of the day’s festivities.
Memorial Day Parades still occur in America’s small towns. I’m sure little girls feel the excitement as I once did. But much has changed in our country as the century of The Great Wars turned into the Twenty-first Century of The Obscure War Against Terrorism. And of course these days not every able-bodied man and woman goes to defend our nation. There is no longer a draft. Few of us know personally those that serve.
War to most of us is not ours to worry about, a mere sound bite and visual on the Evening News, though hardly any of us even watch the news anymore.
We have become a fractured nation: the rich and the poor, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, those that serve --and those who do not.
Which somehow makes that symbol of the United States of America, the Memorial Day Parade seem a relic of our past, a remnant of Americana that gets in the way of what we’d really like to be doing the last day of our now “government-mandated three day holiday”: Shopping -- at that new symbol of Americana: Wal-Mart.
Halli Casser-Jayne is the author of A YEAR IN MY PAJAMAS WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA, The Politics of Strange Bedfellows. You can read more of her opinions @ http://www.thecjpoliticalreport.com and listen to her on Blog Talk Radio on Sunday at 5 est at A Pint of Plain and Politics.
c. 2011 Reprints with permission.