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Remembering - Memorial Day

When I was growing up in the quaint town of Wyoming, New York, we were too close past WWII to "celebrate" Memorial Day. Picnics, barbeques and other amusements would have been sacrilege; it was a solemn day marked by memories of those in the area who never came home.

Wyoming, as many on or near the eastern seaboard of the USA, is a very old town. As such it had a ancient cemetery, with many headstones so old the inscriptions had worn almost smooth. I don't remember who, or what, persons or organization put it together but numerous people from the town picked early flowers from their gardens, or wildflowers that grew in abundance, even dandelions, tiny violets and paintbrushes, early goldenrod, even ferns, scarcely past the budding stage. We walked or were driven up into the hills above Wyoming to the old cemetery, and weeded and cleaned the graves, giving special attention to those that mentioned death in time of war - the Civil War, WWI or WWII. Then those who had lost someone close to them put flowers in vases on their graves, and the rest of us put our offerings in glass jars or even tin cans on veteran's graves long abandoned.

There were three churches in town; my father's pastorate, the Baptist church; the Methodist and the Presbyterian. Church bells would toll in remembrance, and I remember some families put the placards that announced they had a son in the armed forces back in their windows for the day.

I cringe whenever someone wishes me a "Happy Memorial Day". It is anything but. We are glad and grateful, of course, for the horrific sacrifices that so many have made to maintain our freedom from slavery, dictatorship or conquest. But it is not a day to celebrate; it is a day to be thankful and to grieve, for those that gave their lives, for those still suffering the trauma of remembrance, for those they left behind to mourn, and for the necessity sometimes to enter into such conflicts. I for one question our intervention into many of these disputes, and deplore our lack of action in others.

We have spent more of our hard earned money than one could imagine, run up almost un-payable debts, and lost thousands of valuable lives, often without any significant improvement in the arena of conflict. In other places, we had no choice but to intervene. There's a fine line between the two, often muddled by pride, economics, bad information and good intentions gone wrong. War is hell! Our leaders need to think twice about taking good American men and women into those flames.

I don't question that we absolutely had to fight for freedom from domination by England, to free the slaves, to intervene on many fronts in WWII, both to neutralize Hitler and protect ourselves both in the Pacific and Atlantic, and to get Osama Ben Laden after the unprecedented attack on New York City.

Much of these funds now spent on war should instead go to many Veteran's services; physical, and mental, as well as other needs in our own country. If much of the rest of the money spent on war was invested in relieving hunger, eradicating disease, boosting economies, helping find clean water and housing, enabling education in poor suffering countries, working toward clean waterways, oceans and air quality worldwide, and realize that as the human race we are all one, and what affects any group or area affects us all, the need for war would be greatly reduced and Memorial Day a time of true celebration. I (somewhat vainly) hope to see it in my lifetime.  What do you think?  Let's have your opinion. 

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