From Wikipedia about Memorial Day: Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
When I was a kid, I never really understood the importance of the day. I'd have to march in the band in the parade and we'd finish at the park in town. At some point there would be some speeches and a few guys in uniform, who looked older than dirt, would be honored. I had no idea what they had sacrificed, who they were or what they had fought for.
As I got older, my appreciation grew, especially when I lost a friend or two in Viet Nam. I remember a trip to Washington with my own kids and visiting the Viet Nam Memorial and afterwards, just sitting in the park in silence. Had it not been for that first lottery, I would have been drafted and likely known so many of the names there. Maybe my name would have been on that wall. My silence and the tears as my eyes welled up was for so many lost lives.
Ten years ago, living in California, I remember an artist planting flags in the beach by the Santa Monica Pier for each American lost in the middle east. There were thousands of flags that created the power of his tribute.
Today, there are so many more people who recognize the contribution being made by the men and women in our armed forces. While on a plane a few years ago, one of the passengers in first class gave up his seat and wandered back to coach. Across the aisle from me was a serviceman returning home. He looked at him and simply said, "I sure appreciate everything you've done. Go up and take my seat." As the passenger from first class sat down in his new seat in coach, all of us clapped. It was the smallest of tributes, but it recognized what we'd all wanted to say.
I first met Stacy Pearsall when she spoke at Skip's Summer School a few years ago. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as she went through her presentation of images and her books maintain that power and respect.
So, to my Dad who served in WWII, my son Brian in the military today, to all my friends who served in Viet Nam, to my brother-in-law Randy who always has on his Marine baseball hat, to my pal, Stacy Pearsall twice awarded Combat Photographer of the Year and to every mother and father who have ever stood behind their military bound sons and daughters, thank you.
It seems like such a trite inadequate way to show appreciation, but we're here enjoying a quiet Memorial Day, along with millions of Americans who will also enjoy the day, thanks to what all of you have given our country.
Make it a great weekend. Don’t waste a minute of time…enjoy your family, your friends and think about what Memorial Day really means.