Memorial Day Blues

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By Donald Sanders

Today is Memorial Day. Well, at least it was when I wrote this column. When it comes around Memorial Day always awakens something within me that is unique and difficult to explain. It is a warm holiday. When I say “warm” I do not mean warmth that comes from the heat of a warm spring day, nor do I mean the heat of any particular war. Warm Spring days and the heat of any particular war have very little to do with the warmth I feel on Memorial Day.

For some reason Memorial Day has become a day politicians use to advance and promote their own private agendas be it defense spending on a grand scale or revenge for stopping the “free” flow of oil. Oil and spending should have nothing to do with Memorial Day for it is a day of remembrance and love.

Memorial Day is a simple holiday. It’s a day to remember those loved ones who died while in service to our country. That’s pretty simple. We need to keep it simple – or do we?

Memorial Day is a private day. We tend to remember those that we knew or are familiar with that we loved in the past thus it is kept small and close to the chest. Some say it is designed to be a day of remembrance of all who have died in service of our country. If this is so, do we limit the number of people we can remember?

Can immigrants of the first generation remember only those that served in our military or can they remember older generations that may have been in foreign armies but are still loved ones. Should we have a cutoff date for each family dividing our veterans from theirs? If so where does it stop, where does it end?

Consider the American Civil War. Is Memorial Day only for the Yankees or is it OK to include a few Confederates? This seems to complicate things and now things are not so simple. Many families, such as mine had loved ones on both sides of that conflict so I cannot help but remember both sides.

We are a nation made up of immigrants. All of us including those of the Great American Indian Nations have a history of immigration. This fact is the single most important building block, the cornerstone of our nation. Above anything else I love the fact that I could look anyone from anywhere else in the world and say to them, “Yes, you and your loved ones can be Americans.” “Yes, you can live here in peace, free from persecution.” And “Yes, on Memorial Day you can remember those loved ones that may have fought opposite of the United States.”

As it stands Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those that served in the U. S. military. Like I say, that’s pretty simple – at least for most Americans. How many German American, Japanese American, or Mexican American (and many others) have men that served in Iraq or Afghanistan whose fathers fought against the US in WWII or any other conflict throughout history. I dare say there are thousands and thousands.

I am so proud to be an American on this Memorial Day but for me it is not that simple.

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