Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. We usually begin the weekend with a picnic for family and friends at my brother’s house, with plenty of food, swimming and games. The flag is flying, stories are shared, the departed remembered.
The rest of the weekend includes the Memorial Day parade, various veteran’s events and watching special programs on Maryland Public Television.
I’ve had many family members who served their country. My father Joseph A. Farinholt, and one of his brothers received severe wounds that affected them the rest of their lives. His other brothers were luckier.
He didn’t talk much about the war when we were young, but he always stressed that we remember and honor those who didn’t return. They are the ones who should be honored and remembered, he said.
Among those who lost their life during World War II was my mother’s brother, Robert Henry Marshall. He was still a teen when he joined the Navy
He survived Pearl Harbor, but the ship he was on was sunk in the Pacific Theater. When I was a child, I remember Mom, Agnes Farinholt, used to say that he was just missing, suffering from amnesia and stranded on an island. Someday he would remember his family and come home.
|Robert Henry Marshall|
I remember wishing that was true and that I could know this ghost uncle, who rode motorcycles and took up for his little sister. Mom only had her memories of her redheaded brother, two letters he wrote during training and an old photo of him as a teenager before he went into the Navy. I still have that picture.
It was only in her later years that she learned more details about what he did. Navy Department files state that he was a Torpedoman’s Mate 3c and was killed in action. His name is listed on a tablet at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.
I cry when I hear bagpipe music or Taps at cemetery ceremonies. I cry for the Uncle Robert I never knew, for lives cut short and for the families of those gave their all.
Memorial Day, which was first called Decoration Day, was established as a national day of remembrance for those who gave their lives during the Civil War. The official proclamation was issued on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan and was first observed on 30 May 1868, by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
After World War I, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war and those risking their lives even today. I remember Dad and Mom and other veterans putting flags on the graves of veterans in the Westminster Cemetery.
It is important to honor their service, not just by parades and special services, but by respecting those who are serving their country today, by casting our hard-won voting rights wisely, by treating others with respect, and by doing our best to make this a better community, state and nation.
How lucky we are to be Americans and to be able to take the time to remember.