A few days ago we celebrated a very somber and poignant national holiday, Memorial Day. The true significance of the holiday has been minimized in our culture as we view Memorial Day more as the start of summer vacation instead of the memorialization it was intended to represent. In 2002 the Veterans of Foreign Wars provided a statement regarding Memorial Day. “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.” This may be a little harsh considering the newly felt patriotism that we are beginning to observe in our media coverage of such gut wrenching anti-American events like ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
Memorial Day originally began as Decorations Day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. The celebration originated during the Civil War. The name then transitioned to Memorial Day and by the end of World War II that was the common name for the holiday. It is traditional to wear poppies on Memorial Day. This tradition came from a poem “In Flanders Field” that told of poppies growing in the large World War I cemetery that served as the final resting spot for many American soldiers.
As important as the holiday is there is an even more compelling question that should be asked, “Why did these men and women give their lives for a piece of ground that in many cases had rejected the cultures that the deceased military members belonged to?” What would prompt a man to march point blank into a volley of fire knowing that his chance of surviving was very slim. Why would a man who’s family had been stripped of its’ material wealth fight for a country that had taken the families wealth. The only thing that I can come up with is that as bad as things seemed, America still represented the best opportunity for all and as bad as things seemed, it was worth fighting for a free future. Promises made by our founding fathers were worth fighting for with the expectations that all men will equally share in the greatness of the United States of America. This promise of a bright future made by the men that wrote the American Constitution is a subliminal message to all people American.
In 1863 Robert E Lee marched into Pennsylvania where his confederate forces and engaged the Union forces at Gettysburg. Three days later there were between 36,000 and 41,000 causalities of which 8,000 were killed in action. The style of war fare at the time and continued through World War I required large groups of soldiers marching straight into the fire of the enemy. Men from the same towns were placed together so that a soldier would have a less tendency to run and thus save face. When the first volleys of fire hit the advancing Confederate line it is said that a mournful grown could be heard as the sound of the soldiers filled the air. Still the American soldier, both Union and Confederate, held true to their cause and gave their lives for what they felt was precious.
On December 7th, 1941, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. In American Xenophobic zeal, the United States rounded up Japanese Americans on the West Coast and placed them in concentration camps, confiscated the personal wealth of the Japanese Americans and looked upon these Americans with suspicion and contempt. Many that were incarcerated were born in the United States. Japanese Americans that were in boot camp at the time of Pearl Harbor were discharged. Stripped of dignity and material wealth the Japanese still volunteered to fight for America, and fight they did. The segregated Japanese American unit fought valiantly in North Africa and Italy with twenty-two winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Approximately 800 Japanese Americans gave their lives in defense of our great nation.
Many Americans had a feeling that the Black America could not affectively fight for our country. Funding for black aviation units were reluctantly granted in 1939 but the first units remained under the control of white officers. In 1941 Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President went to Tuskegee where the black aviators were being trained and then requested to be taken up by a black pilot. A few months later America was in World War II and there were not enough white offers to go around so the Tuskeegee Airmen became the first totally black units. Despite segregation and discrimination the Tuskeegee fighter units lost 68 pilots to enemy fire.
Several years ago I was in Gallup, New Mexico on business. On the week end I visited the Navaho Nation and went to the Navaho Museum. There was no denying that the Navahos are bitter with the breaking of treaties by America and the museum had these on display. Also, the treatment provided by Kit Carson in his scorched earth policy was a sad point in American History. After I left the museum I topped a hill and there on a hill top were many American flags blowing in the hot mid-day wind of Arizona. I immediately stopped and walked through gates with a sign overhead that read, ”Navaho Veterans Cemetery”. A sobering and proud moment as I walked among the final resting place of Navaho Americans that had served our country.
There is just something magical about our great nation.

A few days ago we celebrated a very somber and poignant national holiday, Memorial Day. The true significance of the holiday has been minimized in our culture as we view Memorial Day more as the start of summer vacation instead of the memorialization it was intended to represent. In 2002 the Veterans of Foreign Wars provided a statement regarding Memorial Day. “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.” This may be a little harsh considering the newly felt patriotism that we are beginning to observe in our media coverage of such gut wrenching anti-American events like ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
Memorial Day originally began as Decorations Day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. The celebration originated during the Civil War. The name then transitioned to Memorial Day and by the end of World War II that was the common name for the holiday. It is traditional to wear poppies on Memorial Day. This tradition came from a poem “In Flanders Field” that told of poppies growing in the large World War I cemetery that served as the final resting spot for many American soldiers.
As important as the holiday is there is an even more compelling question that should be asked, “Why did these men and women give their lives for a piece of ground that in many cases had rejected the cultures that the deceased military members belonged to?” What would prompt a man to march point blank into a volley of fire knowing that his chance of surviving was very slim. Why would a man who’s family had been stripped of its’ material wealth fight for a country that had taken the families wealth. The only thing that I can come up with is that as bad as things seemed, America still represented the best opportunity for all and as bad as things seemed, it was worth fighting for a free future. Promises made by our founding fathers were worth fighting for with the expectations that all men will equally share in the greatness of the United States of America. This promise of a bright future made by the men that wrote the American Constitution is a subliminal message to all people American.
In 1863 Robert E Lee marched into Pennsylvania where his confederate forces and engaged the Union forces at Gettysburg. Three days later there were between 36,000 and 41,000 causalities of which 8,000 were killed in action. The style of war fare at the time and continued through World War I required large groups of soldiers marching straight into the fire of the enemy. Men from the same towns were placed together so that a soldier would have a less tendency to run and thus save face. When the first volleys of fire hit the advancing Confederate line it is said that a mournful grown could be heard as the sound of the soldiers filled the air. Still the American soldier, both Union and Confederate, held true to their cause and gave their lives for what they felt was precious.
On December 7th, 1941, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. In American Xenophobic zeal, the United States rounded up Japanese Americans on the West Coast and placed them in concentration camps, confiscated the personal wealth of the Japanese Americans and looked upon these Americans with suspicion and contempt. Many that were incarcerated were born in the United States. Japanese Americans that were in boot camp at the time of Pearl Harbor were discharged. Stripped of dignity and material wealth the Japanese still volunteered to fight for America, and fight they did. The segregated Japanese American unit fought valiantly in North Africa and Italy with twenty-two winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Approximately 800 Japanese Americans gave their lives in defense of our great nation.
Many Americans had a feeling that the Black America could not affectively fight for our country. Funding for black aviation units were reluctantly granted in 1939 but the first units remained under the control of white officers. In 1941 Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President went to Tuskegee where the black aviators were being trained and then requested to be taken up by a black pilot. A few months later America was in World War II and there were not enough white offers to go around so the Tuskeegee Airmen became the first totally black units. Despite segregation and discrimination the Tuskeegee fighter units lost 68 pilots to enemy fire.
Several years ago I was in Gallup, New Mexico on business. On the week end I visited the Navaho Nation and went to the Navaho Museum. There was no denying that the Navahos are bitter with the breaking of treaties by America and the museum had these on display. Also, the treatment provided by Kit Carson in his scorched earth policy was a sad point in American History. After I left the museum I topped a hill and there on a hill top were many American flags blowing in the hot mid-day wind of Arizona. I immediately stopped and walked through gates with a sign overhead that read, ”Navaho Veterans Cemetery”. A sobering and proud moment as I walked among the final resting place of Navaho Americans that had served our country.
There is just something magical about our great nation.

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