Al Everson MUG

Al Everson

For die-hard traditionalists May 30 was, is, and always will be, the real Memorial Day.

Some of us — no doubt we are looked upon as dinosaurs — believe the true meaning of the somber holiday we call Memorial Day has been lost.

Speaking of dinosaurs, I can still remember seeing live on TV the addition of a pair of unidentified American warriors, one from World War II and the other from the Korean War, at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery May 30, 1958.

I recall my father, himself a career soldier, explaining to me (I was then only 9 years old) what I was seeing. My father had served in both World War II and in Korea, and the ceremony probably meant more to him than he could convey to me as a young child then.

By relabeling the last Monday in May as Memorial Day and grouping it with the preceding weekend, the day loses its meaning and it becomes little more than more time to goof off with a mini-vacation to kick off the summer.

It was not always this way.

There was a time when Memorial Day, May 30, was a somewhat subdued occasion. Federal government offices were closed, and there was no mail delivery. Depending on where you lived, schools may be out, as the academic year was drawing to a close.

In my own younger days, many businesses were closed on Memorial Day, or they were open for fewer hours. Memorial Day was often a time to visit cemeteries and see the earthly resting places of family members and friends.

There was not, as we see today, the commercialized exploitation of the holiday to sell cars, furniture, clothing and virtually everything else. For us, merchandising has taken the place of memorializing.

Some of us just do not feel comfortable amid the crass materialism that now pervades the day.

Yes, some families went to a lake, a river or the beach for a day of fun, whether for fishing, water skiing or swimming, but many chose the rather quiet celebration with loved ones, maybe with a backyard cookout.

I cannot recall thinking of Memorial Day as a day for self. Perhaps the essence of the day was captured in a poem that may no longer be politically correct to cite, but which I saw on the walls of veterans hospitals in decades past.

The author is anonymous, and some accounts say he was killed in a battle. There are various stories about how the piece came to light, but its brevity and point/counterpoint make it one of the most thought-provoking poems in American literature.

Certainly it is worth considering today.