On the 30th of May each year, before our American holidays became a mandatory Monday, the nurseries and monument shops along Milwaukee across from the cemetary would be ablaze in Memorial Day grave adornments. Wreaths and bouquets, flags and symbols were displayed so that we could all honor our loved ones who had made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. They were bought and then taken across the street where we roamed through the lanes of graves to find that special someone. Then with a silent prayer, maybe a tear or two, we left our salutes and returned home.
Flopping Aces offers some great pictures to help you think about what it means:
Our Heroes, Our Memorials
I've hated The Wall since the first time I saw a photo of it. I hated it still more when I visited it the first time and wrote this which went into "Palace Cobra":
Washington D. C. is a city of beautiful buildings and soaring monuments. The capital dominates with its majestic dome and broad stairways. The Supreme Court similarly rises among the stately trees with strength in its columns and classic façade. The memorials to the greats of our nations are white, broad and tall befitting the stature of the military and political leaders which they honor. But, the Wall is black and buried, a depression in the ground symbolizing the depression of the nation that did not win the war or respect the men who fought it. You can see the Washington Monument from miles away and you won’t need a map to find Lincoln or Jefferson or the World War II memorial, but you could walk within a hundred yards of the Wall and never see it. We seem to want to hide it, maybe hoping that an obligation has been fulfilled but no one wants to admit that the obligation existed in the first place.
The names are listed in a paper directory, dog-eared and dirty from thousands of hands searching through it for a name of a friend or family member who was lost. It’s chained to a plywood pedestal like a small town phone book at a gas station pay-phone, almost as an afterthought by the government that maybe some visitor might want to know where on the wall among the 58,000 names their special person is memorialized. But, they do want to know. They come from across the country to see and to feel and to remember. Some say they come for closure or to heal, but that is only a few. More come for respect and to belatedly honor the fallen. And some come out of guilt that they hadn’t gone or hadn’t done the right thing at the time.
The sidewalk along the brooding black marble wall slopes gradually, there are no steps along the way. It’s almost a metaphor for the gradualism that led us to failure. It marks the descent into the immorality of sending men to die for a cause that the nation wants to ignore. But when you reach the deepest point, the walk rises again and gradually, over time returns to the level of the street and the city. All things pass and maybe this represents a return to normalcy and patriotism and honor; belief in your country’s might and the principles that the other soaring white monuments of Washington commemorate. Maybe.
Then I went back on a Memorial Day weekend when the Rolling Thunder bikes came to town and the people at The Wall seemed to remember what it was all about. It's different now.