Memorial Day when I was growing up was the 30th of May. In fact, it didn’t become a floating to Monday holiday until 1972 which explains my memories of parades and cemetery services being on various days of the week.
I had no family who served in the US military in WWI – either too young an immigrant or too old when the war started. In WWII, my father served but wasn’t let out of CONUS due to age and perhaps attitude. He served as a combat photographer for the 10th Mountain Division. Something that I verified when I was stationed at Ft Drum as his scribble was tucked into the corner of a few of the training photos from the Colorado Mountains prior to the division beings shipped to the Italian front.
I spent Viet Nam in University and Med School, the first Gulf War first in Eckenbach for Golden Python and then later at Ft Drum. After that I managed to get through 6 months plus multiple trips to the Balkans, 15 months in Kuwait & Iraq and 7 months in Afghanistan without getting myself killed. In fact, I don’t think I have any US family members who have died in military service. For that matter, I don’t think I have had any family members other than my father who have ever served. Military service was traditionally for men – lots of small families with daughters only, and it made for a really, really good reason to leave Czarist Russia. 25 years conscription was not a good thing for anyone and did only rarely return anyone to home.
For me it is a good day to stay home. I can recognize the sacrifice of others without going somewhere, doing something. It is not like living in Europe where visiting the WWI and WWII cemeteries made sense. I can recognize the sacrifice of self, family and country.
And I don’t have to be bombarded by all those commercial enterprises which disgracefully dishonor the sacrifice of so many in countries service by turning the holiday which was traditionally one of respect into just another sales opportunity.