Happy Memorial Day! Have you heard the greeting on TV or seen it on Facebook this weekend? It always bothers me when I see it because the word “memorial’ generally connotes something other than “happy” — or at least it ought to. I understand that most people who proffer the greeting do so perfectly innocently, wishing upon their friends a pleasant holiday weekend spent barbecuing or shopping for mattresses. But whenever I hear the flippant greeting, my mind goes back to the trip our family made to our local national cemetery last year on Memorial Day. We went there to visit the grave of my husband’s grandfather, Ivan Kerr, a WWII veteran who had marched across Europe during the Battle of the Bulge, and also to pay tribute to those who had paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
It was a gorgeous Ohio day with a cloudless blue sky and row upon row of grave markers decorated with small American flags, courtesy of the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We arrived several hours after the official Memorial Day ceremony, after the crowds had dispersed. People were wandering around the cemetery, some looking like they had a purpose and others, like our family, reading the headstones and thinking about the individual lives and families and stories they represented. In the distance we heard a lone bugler playing “Taps.” There were no funerals or ceremonies going on, so we were left to wonder whether he played to honor a fallen friend or if he just played as a simple act of patriotism to pay tribute to all the fallen heroes, unknown to him, who lay beneath the tiny flags and white marble markers.