Editor: As an 87-year-old disabled veteran of the Korean War, I can recall a time not so long ago when Memorial Day was a day of parades in practically every community in America as citizens remembered the men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for this country.
It was a day to visit local cemeteries, honoring those still living who face daily challenges of recovering from their combat injuries, and programs were conducted in all our public schools. Now, there are fewer parades, very few Memorial Day programs in our public schools and visits to our cemeteries are usually only made by those who lost a loved one defending our nation. The day has become more of a day for family barbecues and family gatherings.
Sadly, in today’s environment we face a tsunami of ads by retail stores and car dealers who believe they are honoring our heroes who defended our nation for more than 200 years by having product sales and lining their pockets with the profits. What a wonderful and thoughtful way to honor our men and women on Memorial Day.
I can remember a Memorial Day 75 years ago when I, as a 12-year-old, was selected to carry the heavy Springfield rifle of a World War I veteran dressed in his heavy wool uniform, soup plate helmet, and puttees, up a steep hill to our town cemetery. As we stood next to each other looking up at our American flag waving in the breeze as the marching band played our National Anthem, I noticed tears streaming down his cheeks. Following a salute to all veterans of all wars who served our nation from our small community, he looked down at me with tear filled eyes and told me: “Son, for the rest of your life, don’ t ever forget the men and women who gave their lives for our nation and always remember them on Memorial Day.”
Those words have remained with me for my entire life as I spent every Memorial Day giving keynote addresses, visiting the nearest VA Hospital to chat with veterans abandoned by their families, and my beloved wife and I always brought with us collected items such as white stockings, toothpaste, combs, T-shirts, etc. for those whose sacrifices for their nation had been forgotten.
Yes, Memorial Day was a day originated to honor the sacrifices of our men and women who gave their lives for their nation. What a shame it has now become a victim to those who advocate memory loss for the occasion and merchants who use the day to line their pockets. What a sad commentary this is on Memorial Day 2017. It makes this old veteran’s eyes get tear filled to even think I have seen this happen in my lifetime.
Lou Gros Louis, Lansdowne