More than a long weekend … Memorial Day

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Many people think of Memorial Day as a long vacation weekend and the beginning of summer. Memorial Day is so much more. The intent of Memorial Days is to commemorate the men and women who lost their lives serving the county and defending our freedom.

The original unofficial Memorial Day

I recently read a very interesting story about the first memorial day. It is a story not often read – lost in history. On May 1, 1865, a group of African-Americans conducted a ritual of remembrance at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club. The track and facilities had been turned into an outdoor prison during the Civil War. Union soldiers were confined to the prison and were kept in deplorable conditions. 257 Union soldiers died there. The African-Americans were remembering those Union soldiers. (For more background on this story, click HERE.)

The original official Memorial Day

The article cited above goes on to describe the first official national memorial day that was held in 1868. General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (the Union Veteran’s Organization) called on former northern soldiers to conduct ceremonies and decorate graves to remember their dead comrades. City after city began to participate and the holiday grew from there.

Honoring others

Many of us decorate graves – not only to commemorate lost soldiers – but also to commemorate, honor, and remember family members and friends who are now gone. Perhaps this is out of character with the original intent but certainly it is a natural progression. The important thing is to also remember and honor the original intent along with remembering others.

What can you do on Memorial Day

There are many ways to honor the fallen soldiers and others:

  • Decorate graves
  • Donate to you favorite charity and consider donating to a veteran’s museum, organization, etc
  • Fly your U.S. flag at half-mast to honor fallen soldiers (This is required for all governmental agencies.)
  • Attend a Memorial Day parade
  • Visit a local memorial
  • Attend a local memorial day event
  • Plant a memory tree
  • Create a memory garden
  • Create memory stones to place in your garden
  • Create a walking path of memory stones (the walk of life)

I’m sure there are many more ways to commemorate Memorial Day. I hope you make this Memorial Day weekend more than just a long weekend off of work and that you find a way to remember.

Just one more thing

Although not the intent of Memorial Day, think about  saying a kind word to someone … perhaps a veteran. It’s not hard to do and it may very well make a difference in that person’s life. Last summer I was at the Veterans Administration facilities in St. Cloud, waiting for my btother who had a doctor appointment. I was sitting in my car, in the parking lot, watching workers cut down a tree. I also watched an older gentlemen, with a glorious silver ponytail, park his vehicle, get out and talk to the workers, and then back up his pickup. The workers then loaded some of the cut wood into the back of pickup. The gentlemen saw me watching, with my car window open, and came over to talk to me. He explained that he couldn’t work anymore so he did woodcraft to earn extra money. He also explained that the tree was a black walnut tree – wonderful wood for carving. We talked for about fifteen minutes – until he realized he was late for his appointment. As he left, he exclaimed. “I am going to tell them I am late because I was talking to the Planning Director from Anoka!” I laughed – because I don’t think that talking to me is that exciting – but it made his day and that is all that counts.

No act of kindness is ever wasted.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

A morning with veterans …

Last week I spent the morning taking my brother to his check-up at the Veterans Affairs facility in St. Cloud, Minnesota. First, he was scheduled to have blood work done at 7:30 am – so we left for his appointment before 6:30 am that morning. We arrived a little early so he decided to go to the appointment a little early; I decided to stay outside, sitting in my vehicle, with windows down and a warm summer breeze flowing through the car — and, of course, a cup of coffee in my hand.

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Veterans facility in St. Cloud

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Walking path …

There has been a lot of conversation about the poor treatment of veterans at such facilities. What I experienced, however, was much different. Of course, I wasn’t experiencing the inner workings of the facility – just observing the people at the facility. I saw employees walking to the facility, smiling, talking and greeting one another or those walking on the path, engaged in lively conversations. I didn’t see anyone who looked even remotely crabby. And, of course, there were many veterans arriving for services. They all greeted one another – occasionally stopping for a short conversation.

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Love the prices!

About 8:15 am, my brother returned to the car. HIs next appointment wasn’t until 9:00 am so we left for a quick breakfast at a local restaurant that serves everyday food.   After a good breakfast with fast and friendly service, we headed back to the VA facility.

I again chose to sit in the car and work on identifying ideas for blog posts. It didn’t take long and the idea for this blog presented itself. I started watching workers who were cutting down a tree and grinding up the branches (I’m always fascinated by machinery.)

007 Within minutes, a red pickup backed up, next to my car, and a slim gentleman, with white hair held  in a ponytail, jumped out. He approached the workers and minutes later they happily loaded two large pieces of the tree trunk into his truck and then went back to their business.

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Obviously an older tree – lots of growth rings.

The man from the truck saw me watching and came over to my car. He explained that he carves bowls and other such items from wood and the wood that they loaded was black walnut – a premium wood for carving. He was very happy and excited to get the wood. We talked more and he told me he was a Viet Nam veteran who had been coming to this facility since 1990. Having observed the friendly environment, I asked him what he thought of the facility. He stated that the services at the facility, which in his early years there were quite unsatisfactory, have steadily improved. He explained that the workers now are enthusiastic and care about the veterans, something not always experienced in the past. He also commented that they are doing a much better job in caring for the physical environment – so it looks like they care about the place.

I was hoping I could buy some of the bowls he makes but I will have to wait. He said his health prevents him from working a lot of the time so I should check next summer. Then he realized he was a bit late for his appointment but he was sure they would understand when he explained he just had been talking to the Planning Director from the City of Anoka. Haha – I doubt they would be impressed with that, but, given the friendly atmosphere, I’m quite sure they forgave him for being late.

And, by the way, my brother is fine.