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Memorial Day

Posted by Kevin Walli | Fri, May 23, 2014 @ 08:00 AM

Memorial Day ParadeThe nation takes a holiday on Memorial Day to honor our country’s veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country. 

Just to make the distinction, Veterans Day celebrates the veterans of our military services while Memorial Day pays tribute to the men and women who died while in uniform. 

Memorial Day is set for the last Monday in May so the date will change from year to year. It’s the unofficial start of summer. The Indy 500 is run on Memorial Day and has been since the first race was run in 1911. Millions of Americans take to the highways to visit relatives or enjoy a barbecue, a picnic, a day at the beach, or the sales and other distractions held all over the country. 

And, here and there, small groups gather for a different sort of celebration. 

The holiday was called Decoration Day after the end of the Civil War when flowers would be placed on the graves of the soldiers who perished in the Civil War. It should be noted that the practice extended to both Union and Confederate soldiers in cemeteries in the north and the south. Now it also extends to Viet Nam veterans who were POW/MIA.  Many families were left grieving as their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers went missing and their fates unknown. 

On Memorial Day morning the United States flag is to be quickly raised to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to half staff until noon. At noon the flag is raised to full staff where it is to remain for the rest of the day. 

Did you know that 3:00 PM is also a special moment on Memorial Day? In 2000, Congress established it as a National Moment of Remembrance. All Americans are to pause for one minute of silence to honor America’s fallen warriors. 

This year, as is the case every year, my family and I will share that moment with one of those small groups, at the Santa Rosa Memorial Park Cemetery. We go to hear speeches and to give thanks at the graves of the veterans whose sacrifices took place over the past 238 years. 

Michael Doyle - Father - MarineMy Father-in-Law was one of them. Michael Doyle was a Marine who served in the Korean War and identified as a Marine for as long as he lived. He was very proud of his service and stayed friends with many of his fellow Marines his whole life. Men and women who serve in combat have a bond that civilians have a hard time grasping. 

The cemetery is immaculately groomed with the lawns neatly trimmed, the headstones cleaned and the Avenues decorated with hundreds of American flags placed early in the morning by the Boy Scouts. 

At the memorial service in the morning, the Pearl Harbor survivors sit front and center on the stage. We had 5 men sitting up front 5 years ago and only 2 were present last year. The vets from World War II are given the seats up front followed by the Korean War vets and then the Vietnam vets. 

There is a fun competition as the band plays fight songs from the US Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines and Coast Guard. Veterans from each group cheer heartily, trying to out-cheer the other groups. Usually the Army group is the most plentiful, I believe, and therefore makes the most noise. The band also plays the Star Spangled Banner to start the ceremony and ends with a solemn rendition of taps. A group of 7 servicemen fire three rounds into the air at the close of the service to give the famed 21 gun salute. 

Michael deserves it. So do the thousands of his comrades who all gave their lives so that we may enjoy the freedom and lifestyle that we have today.

Written by Kevin Walli

Kevin Walli is an award-winning graphic designer with 18-plus years of experience in graphic design, web design and photography. Flexible and creative with an excellent sense of humor, Kevin enjoys spending time with his family, photography, reading, music and sports.