Memorial Day

I think the meaning of Memorial Day has been diluted.  It is not a day for cookouts and beer.  It's not a great time to buy sheets and towels on sale at Sears.  It's not the day to celebrate the military and veterans - Armed Forces Day was last week and Veterans' Day is Nov. 11.  Memorial Day is the day established to remember and honor those who gave their lives in battle to help protect our country.

From Wikipedia:

The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day", which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) advocate returning to the original date, although the significance of the date is tenuous.

The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address: Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.

Since 1987, Hawaii's Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, has introduced a measure to return Memorial Day to its traditional date.

After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress's change of date within a few years. Memorial Day endures as a holiday which most businesses observe because it marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

In times of war, my family has always made men available to go and serve.  None of my family members have made a career of the military and thankfully, none have made the ultimate sacrifice.  I've only known two men who have.  Today I'll lift a toast to them.

LCpl. Troy Gregory, USMC

From YellowFootprints.com: In December 1990, Troy Gregory answered his country’s call and deployed to Saudi Arabia with Battery H, 3/14 which was mobilized and then attached to 1st Battalion, 11th Marines. Gregory served with the Headquarters Battery during 1st Marine Division’s assault in Kuwait. On the night of 25 February, the Battalion CP occupied a new position in support of Task Force Papa Bear. A security patrol, which included Lance Corporal Gregory, was organized to investigate an enemy bunker adjacent to the new CP position. While conducting this patrol, Gregory stepped on an Iraqi land mine and was critically wounded. Despite quick evacuation to a Naval Hospital, he died the following day of his wounded. LCpl Gregory received the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon for his services during Desert Storm.

I did not know LCpl. Gregory well.  I was on the gun line and he was in our headquarters platoon.  He was the only loss of our unit and affected us all.  His daughter was born about 6 months after his death. 

2nd Lieutenant Almar Fitzgerald, USMC

From MilitaryTimes.com: Died February 21, 2006 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Lexington, S.C.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward); died Feb. 21 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds sustained Feb. 18 when an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations against enemy forces in Ramadi, Iraq.

Almar worked with me for a couple of his summers off from being a cadet at The Citadel.  He had a small stature, but a huge personality.  I know I raised a few eyebrows at The Citadel when my girlfriend (now wife) and I rolled up in the middle of the campus on my Harley looking for him one Spring afternoon when we were cruising around South Carolina, but I imagine that it surprised none of his friends.  I had lost track of Almar and didn't know that he had deployed to Iraq when I heard about his death.

Rest in Peace, Marines.  Semper Fidelis!

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