Memorial Day Weekend

As a kid I marched in Memorial Day parades down Kearny Avenue, with the Brownies. The parade was a big patriotic deal, more than just the kickoff of the summer season. Rochester had a parade when Sara and Matt were little , which often devolved into controversy between the VietNam Vets and the older units of World War II and Korean soldiers marching by nationality or creed: Italian War Vets, Jewish War Vets, all under the control of the local American Legion. No Japanese or German war vets, although presumably American citizens with that heritage fought. I honestly forget what the controversy was about, but the compromise was usually that the VietNam vets had to march at the end, with a couple of hundred feet between their unit and the rest of the parade. They usually got the biggest and most sustained applause. We always went, and clapped along with everyone else. In those days there were a lot of military trucks and drab olive green equipment rolling down East Avenue, which Matt loved. Over the years turning out the military equipment got too expensive, and the fun of seeing the parade diminished.

I don’t even know if Seattle has a parade, and if it does, I’m quite sure none of us are going. Smaller towns and cities in the heartland are more apt to have them, I imagine.

Word has it that Trump is going to dishonor the day by pardoning U.S. soldier war criminals, because someone on Fox News urged him to do so. Commander Bone Spurs has no more idea of military honor and discipline than a prairie dog. That he will dishonor all of us isn’t even on his radar screen. He likes tough guys who shoot women and children with sniper rifles while waving the American flag.

Matt and Amy are having people over on Monday, which is going to be nice here in Seattle — 77 degrees. That means the pool will be open. I’ll bring a dish and a bottle of wine — as yet undetermined. We might do a smaller just-family thing on Sunday, and if so I’ll spring for the crazy expensive Copper River Salmon.

A friend took me out for a birthday lunch on Friday, which might signal the official end of my 2019 Birthday Season.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all, whatever it might mean to you.

6 thoughts on “Memorial Day Weekend

  1. I remember driving from the farm in western PA back to Rochester on Memorial Day – about 15-20 years ago. We went through many small towns and each one seemed to be having a Memorial Day parade! Some we got caught in and others we managed to avoid or find alternate streets or roads.
    Sorta fun!

  2. An interesting recollection, Pam, of a time when Memorial Day was embraced far differently than I see it to be remembered today. The thing that strikes me the most this Memorial Day is how once more the thoughts flow about service to our country especially that made to our country via the military. This leads me to focus on the core points of those thoughts which are about the sacrifices made by those – through war – for the preservation of human freedoms, liberty, justice and democracy. Yet, even in a mere last two weeks, give or take, our country has moved to severely lessen (with the full intent to be eliminate) the freedom of women to decide how to manage their own bodies; and the civil rights of transgender people to receive health care (because the decider of such a matter has long espoused the belief that religion outranks civil rights). How is it then, in light of these denigrating actions toward freedom, should we choose to memorialize those who fought and died for the so-called freedoms which we’re reminded often are not free when our actions repeatedly in the last mortifying two plus years has been to trample and dismantle more and more of those fought-and-died-for for liberties? I wonder.

  3. for Steve: Full of potential for rich conversation, I’d say. My late husband served during the Viet Nam war, even though he hated everything about the army, because his father had served during WWII and asked Jerry to serve as a matter of patriotic duty. Our son registered for the draft, as required, but would never have served if he’d had a choice — nor, I think, would Jerry have asked him to. Then we went to a professional military. Feels very different to me, even though a death is a death and clearly to be remembered. What is our professional military protecting now, or who? Good questions, given the political tenor of the day.

  4. In 1984, Rochester Women’s Action for Peace wanted to march at the back of the Memorial Day parade here in Rochester. The veterans did not want them to participate and legal and mediation proceedings were initiated. The women had made it clear that they were not denigrating the sacrifices made by veterans and their families but sought to put forth the point that we are all victims of wars and should speak out for a future of peace and justice. According to court decisions, the veterans could not hold the parade if they excluded the women. In protest, the Veterans Memorial and Executive Council representing 20 local veterans groups cancelled the parade! The women decided to hold their own parade and invited veterans to participate. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 20 chose to march and lead the parade. I photographed that parade.

    I loved this quote from a member of the peace group Hyla Sandgrund, “If we can’t share East Avenue and Main St. in Rochester, I don’t know what hope there is for solving global problems”. The following year and every year since, the Memorial Day parade has gone on as usual, with the peace contingents always bringing up the rear. While only a local symbolic victory, it is something that I hold on to in these ever worsening times. I always carry with me a Howard Zinn quote, “The essential ingredients of struggles for justice are human beings who, if only for a moment, if only while beset with fears, still step out of line and do something, however small. And even the smallest most unheroic of acts adds to the pile of kindling that may be ignited by some surprising circumstance into tumultuous change.”

  5. for Sharon: I totally remember that year, and that only the Viet Nam vets marched. Crazy. We were there. Like the Hyla Sandgrund quote… a name out of the past.

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