Memorial Day is more than parades
His Bronze Star and its accompanying citation hang framed in my living room.
Not far from it are pictures of two young men, one in an Army uniform and the other wearing a pilot’s leather headgear and a flight jacket.
My father is the one in uniform; a young man who was trained as a combat medic and participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Normandy as a member of a combat engineer battalion. He received the Bronze Star for his actions after his landing craft was hit twice approaching Omaha Beach.
The other photo is his older brother, Shelby, who flew C-47s in the Army Air Corps and participated in the invasion of Normandy. There is a vacant spot on the wall for a photograph of my mother, who served as a nurse in the French Army in World War II.
Monday is Memorial Day.
The holiday started to remember the sacrifice of Union soldiers who died during the Civil War and decorate their graves. It later became a holiday to honor all who served in America’s wars and has been celebrated in the past with parades, concerts, picnics, fireworks and wreath-laying ceremonies at cemeteries.
But this year a minuscule enemy called COVID-19 and the precautions implemented to try and reduce the spread of the disease has forced people across the country to modify their plans and veer from the traditional celebration of the day.
Parades and fireworks may be canceled in some areas; virtual concerts performed to audiences at home. Wreath-laying ceremonies may be done with only the participants and an honor guard watching.
The Indianapolis 500, a tradition almost as old and as revered as Memorial Day itself, has been postponed to August. The baseball season has been delayed and the traditional Memorial Day weekend games won’t be played. Picnics and barbeques will be confined to immediate families.
But these are only outward symbols of the holiday; the true celebration of Memorial Day is taking the time to remember the men and women who like my three family members donned a uniform to serve their country. Some of those who wore a uniform lost their lives protecting the freedoms we enjoy. We don’t need parades or barbecues to remember that.
And this year we have others to honor; the men and women risking their lives to help treat those who have COVID-19. The personal protection equipment they wear may not be military issue, but they are just as deserving of our respect and admiration at this time as anyone in the military. They too are on a battlefield and are risking their lives to save people and protect others.
This weekend, as we prepare to go about our own Memorial Day plans, let’s take the time to remember those who serve and who served; those who are out there protecting us and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I’ll take time to look at the pictures on my wall and remember three people I love who decided to serve their country. On my right hand, I wear a ring with a green stone and the Army emblem. It has an inscription that says “In Memory of Dad,” but it includes my mother and my uncle. You see, every day is Memorial Day for me.
And it should be that way for all of us.
John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.