To Everything There is a Season… Memorial Day 2013


Soldier placing flags on graves

The origin of Decoration Day – what we today call Memorial Day – has evolved and changed through our American ages. And with that evolution came the various perspectives of celebration and acknowledgement.

When Curt posted a Most Wanted article, “For Me, It Is About the Barbecue” by Deebow at BlackFive, the Pete Seeger adaptation of the Book of Ecclesiastes verses into song – with it’s most widely known performance by the Byrds in 1965 – came to my mind.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

This day of remembrance began as an American movement by localities following the Civil War. In an effort to heal their grief, communities started adorning grave sites and offering prayers in the spring of the 1860s. “A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal”.

John Alexander Logan

It was in May of 1862 that General John A. Logan, leader of an organization called the Northern Civil War Veterans, called for a nationwide remembrance of the fallen on May 30th, 1868.

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle

On that first Decoration Day, a then General James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery where he and 5000 participants adorned the graves of over 20,000 Confederate and Union soldiers laid to rest.

As time passed, the States followed suit with more official events remembering when a nation was torn apart by internal civil war. It wasn’t until WWI when the nation again found itself embroiled in another major conflict and large loss of life. The tradition evolved, incorporating those who died in the latest conflict… and later the ensuing wars. And the original day, May 30th, became more commonly referred to as Memorial Day.

In 1968, a century after the first official acknowledgement of Decoration Day, Congress began the practice of combining workplace practicality with tradition, passing the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, officially moving Decoration Day/Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in order to create three day weekends for federal workers. The law, simultaneously, declared Memorial Day a federal holiday, and took effect in 1971.

Thus began a more modern practice of remembrance, with grief, mourning and strewing of flowers morphing in to more festive activities of parades and barbecues over three day weekends, ushering in summer. “A Time to Build Up, A Time to Break Down – A Time to Dance, A Time to Mourn”

In the past, many of us have felt that the majority have lost that sense of respect for fallen warriors, harboring a bit of disdain for those barbecues. But I believe that Deebow’s BlackFive article, with a bit of help from King Solomon, Pete Seeger and the Byrds, have pulled me back into a more healthy perspective. As Deebow notes from his article:

Is there anyone here that wouldn’t want to have a barbecue where Basil Plumley, John Basilone, Gary Gordon, Randy Shugart, Hal Moore, Matt Ridgeway, James Stockdale or Michael Murphy all showed up? All of them would make a “who’s who” list of men I would be honored to sit around my firepit and pass out cheeseburgers and ribs off of my grill to in those red drive thru baskets you can still get at old school burger joints as we share cheap cold beer and ask who brought the POG wearing the “HALO” T-Shirt. Later on over mouthfuls of Mrs. Deebow’s pretzel rolls that I am using for sliders and the last of the bleu cheese potato salad, we could spend our time trying not to choke as we tell one hilarious war story after another; all starting with the phrase “and there we were….”

Then, after the sun went down, and we sat quietly around a fire as warriors are apt to do with their cigars and their libations; we would toast our lost comrades and commiserate on what would have been, had it not been for that fateful day; and we would do as General Patton said. We would thank God that men of their character had lived at all. I would feel even more blessed that those men made the choice of a life spent defending something they felt deeply about.

I can think of no better way to honor men like SGM Basil Plumley, Manila John Basilone, MSG Gary Gordon, MSG Randy Shugart, Col. Hal Moore, Gen. Matt Ridgeway, Adm. James Stockdale or Lt. Michael Murphy, Sergeant Earl Werner, Maj. Larry Bauguess, Sergeant Bernard Deghand and the countless many more names just like them who now stand eternal guard in the gardens of stone around the world than to drink, eat, make merry and live the freedom that they have worked so hard to give me.

I toast my freedom in your honor and I live everyday attempting to suck the very marrow out of the freedom for which you have paid so dearly. Thank you sirs; although saying that just seems as if it isn’t enough.

But thank you just the same.

Yes, there is A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven, including A Time to Laugh, and a Time To Weep. And there is no reason why we cannot do both. In fact, it would be disingenuous to separate that, were it not for the mourning and loss, the joy and celebration of freedom could not exist.

So relish your time with friends and family on this long holiday. But at 3pm your local time, take part in the National Moment of Remembrance to remember the history of why and how you have these days of freedom and joy.

The US Memorial Day Organization has other suggestions to mark the day.

· by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.

· by visiting memorials.

· by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.

· by flying the ‘POW/MIA Flag’ as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).

· by participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.

· by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

If you’re looking for a parade in your State, the VetFriends site has a quick easy directory for you.

Me? I wish you all well, and leave you with the below video – the message from one father, Tom Sheehan, determined to make sure the new generations will will embrace the lessons of “A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven”.

See more Memorial Day photos at The History Channel’s website
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@MataHarley: #48
Most of the information about the USS Merrill I already had, but I really appreciate the extra info about it, and the extra web sites.

Boy, I wish we had Internet when Dad was trying to round up his squadron members.

You would think that the military would have a web site that would let vets contact each other if they wanted to be contacted. Once it would be set up, the computer would do the work. The vet would put a name in, and the computer would notify that person who wants to contact them, and give their contact info, then the other could decide whether to contact them or not.

@another vet: #52
At first I thought the web site wouldn’t help me, since there are no names on the pictures, then I realized that if I can find any names that were on the ship with Dad, I might be able to contact them. Thanks.

One suggestion when putting names on pictures: NEVER put “me” or “I” with the names. 20-30 years after the pictures are taken, most people won’t know who “me” or “I” is. I have seen many pictures like that.

@MataHarley: #54
Thanks for the extra info.