Memorial Day 2016: Picnics & Patriotism

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.
William J. Clinton
True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.
Robert Reich
U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” march to an assembly point to receive further instructions during the “Flags In” tribute to honor fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 22, 2008. More than 3,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines officially kicked off the Memorial Day commemoration by placing 265,000 miniature flags at every grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Defense Dept. photo by Sebastian J. Sciotti Jr.

Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

New York was the first state to make Memorial Day an official holiday in 1873.
Every year, when I was a kid, my father’s church had a picnic.  Of course, my dad was Greek Orthodox and that religion places a great deal of importance on memory; a traditional condolence is “May his/her memory be eternal.”

My Dad, who served in the Korean conflict,  disliked it when all the stores stayed open on these holidays, thinking it meant that we placed less importance on the sacrifices of the men and women who died in service to our country.

I am not a person who claims to have a great understanding of  the terrible tapestry of human nature, culture, religion, economics and politics that make war a perpetual reality for this world.  I do, however appreciate the people who train, fight, suffer and die for the equally wonderful tapestry that makes up our country. 

I have total respect for the Orsini family of Altamont, NY.  My classmate’s father is interviewed in this piece about his late brother’s act of creating a flag while a POW of the Japanese. Also Mr. Orsini and his six brothers were all in the service during WWII. What a great family.  My husband’s family had two brothers in WWII, Pete and Fred; only one of them came home. 


I appreciate that this country is a place where within two generations my family has gone from day labor to corporate CEO (my sisters, not me). From landing in Ellis Island from steerage to flying to Europe at will, from fleeing in the face of religious and economic persecution to having the freedom not to practice the same religion my ancestors did. 

I can do that today because the people in our military, and heroes outside the military, do what they do: from my own family, to the Orsini family, and others in my hometown,  from Nathan Hale to a man I attended school with, Brig. Gen. Harry Greene (killed in Afghanistan two years ago). 

And, regardless of what we personally believe about the conflicts, I respect that soldiers perform their duties regardless of their own beliefs and at their own peril. And, let’s not forget our veterans and service members who are still on this earth, but whose service is not less important.

I am sad that I don’t know more about the women who served in the military.

America has never stopped being great.

Enjoy time with your families today, in a great place to live and work, remembering the sacrifices of people who gave their all; their everything, for the promise of America.

Great stories about the USA and the ideals that are the basis of our Great Experiment:

ARUNDEL by Kenneth Roberts – one of my favorite books of all time.  I haven’t reviewed it – but perhaps I should.

AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER by Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray  (Review)