My Turn: Why we remember on Memorial Day
Memorial Day is almost here — and I am sitting in the sun room overlooking Rainbow Lake in Geneva, Ind. The flag is waving vigorously in the gusty winds, remnant of the tornado watch last night.
For years our family has traveled to Indiana to spend Memorial Day with Rick’s folks. It has always been a combination of a fun family gathering with cookouts and boat rides — and a solemn time of remembrance and honor.
My father-in-law, Lloyd Perry, was in the 14th Armored Division of General Patton’s 3rdArmy. A bronze star recipient, he never spoke much about the war, but he did speak clearly and earnestly when he reminded us that freedom isn’t free and should not be taken for granted. He knew firsthand what it was to fight for freedom, and how many of his fellow soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to keep America free.
That is what Memorial Day is all about — honoring those who died serving our country.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. Jon Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After WWI the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war.
Sadly, today, many have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day and some never really knew them. We celebrate Memorial Day, not just with sales and picnics, but to honor and remember those who died fighting for our freedoms. At Arlington National Cemetery, like at many cemeteries across the nation, gravestones are decorated with American flags.
I am grateful to know the meaning and traditions. The proper flag etiquette is very specific on this day. On Memorial Day, the flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Each Memorial Day, Lloyd Perry performed the flag ceremony in his beautiful yard on the lake, while family gathered to watch. He took the ceremony to heart and would end with a crisp, sharp salute that only a true military man can do. He would not let the sacrifice of so many be in vain. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there to witness the tribute.
On March 30, Lloyd left this earthly life of 88 years. He left a hole in the hearts of his family that will not be filled. He left a rich legacy for us all to remember and continue. This Memorial Day will be a tough one for us, but a glorious one for him.
There was a poem he had glued in his Bible. At his request, it was read at his funeral by our son, Russell. I share it now as a tribute to those brave soldiers gone before, and to honor those still with us.
By Arta Nottingham Chappius
There will be a great encampment
In the lands of clouds today
A mingling and a merging
Of our boys who’ve gone away.
Though on earth they are disbanding,
They are very close and near
For those brave and honored heroes
Show no sorrow, shed no tear.
They have lived a life of glory
History pins their medals high-
Listen to the thunder rolling
They are marching in the sky!
The flag ceremony will continue this Memorial Day at Rainbow Lake. Family member, Jeremy Nevil, an Army veteran who returned from active duty in Afghanistan last July, will perform the sacred task. He promised Lloyd he would be here.
The remembrance continues.
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