Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day always makes me think of my father. He was a veteran of World War II, having served four or so years on a Navy destroyer. He spent 2 years in the North Atlantic fighting German U-Boats, and his remaining time in the Pacific. Right up to what was to have been the invasion of Japan.

During his first two years of service he spent an 18 month stretch of time where he didn't set foot on anything but the deck of the vessel he served on. So vital was each and every ship to the US Navy that there was no time for shore leave or much of anything except fighting a war that at the time looked like it could have gone either way. He was 17 years old when his portion of that war began, when it was over he was barely 21.

He never made much of his time in service to this country during wartime. It was something he did because he believed it was his duty to do so. He never joined the VFW or American Legion, never marched in any parades. It wasn't that he didn't have the highest regard for those organizations and those who serve in them, because he did. It's just that he never seemed to have the time.

He hit the ground running after the war, started a few businesses, made and lost a couple of fortunes, then left all that behind and lived out the later years of his life in a house just off the 17th green of a golf course in South Carolina. Which was kind of funny since he was truly awful at the game. But that was his slice of the American dream, and trust me, he never gave a damn about anybody's opinion of how he lived it. Freest American I've ever had the honor to know.

I was looking around the internet trying to find something about Memorial Day that might have met with the approval of Seaman Bud Crawford, the guy who did his service during some difficult times, and once it was over never looked back. And I really didn't find anything that he wouldn't have raised a quizzical eyebrow at, then changed the subject. After all, it is always a sunny day where he is now, and there is golf to be played. Badly, I suspect.

So, out of respect for what I figure would have been his advice, I should probably have left it at that. But I won't. Not without this one observation. And it comes from an editorial that ran in the Santa Maria Times a couple of days ago. In a piece they call "A simple thank you might do," they bemoan how the holiday has become yet another heavily hyped day off for shopping, and just how few among us even know what Memorial Day is about. 80% are ignorant of the true meaning of today's holiday, by one poll.

But despite all that, they made a request. Here is how it was put:

The folks at the National WWI Museum have a suggestion, and we support it - take time Monday to pause in your busy schedule, find an active member of the military or a veteran, and thank them for the sacrifices they made and are making.

You also might consider visiting a local cemetery and placing a small American flag on a soldier's grave. If a friend or family member is a veteran or in active service, pick up the phone and give them a call. Even a text message or e-mail can make that person know you're thinking of them, and the sacrifice they made on your and the nation's behalf.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3208 will hold an 11 a.m. commemoration this morning at Pioneer Cemetery. It is a moving ceremony, and if you've never attended before, perhaps this is the year you'll set aside an hour or so and stop by. It both honors those whose service to this country is recent and remembered, yet also carries on a tradition with its origins all the way back to the beginnings of our country. A time that can now only be recalled through history books, and occasions such as this one.

City Councilmember MaryAnn MacGillivray will once again do the keynote address honors.


  1. My brother was 17 when he was shipped overseas during WWII. He didn't speak much about it when he came back, but we did know that he was in Luxenberg during the Battle of the Buldge. Got a Purple Heart too for being wounded. But for him it was just what an American did at the time of war. You serve, and then you go on with life. We were always so proud of him. My sister and I still are as we remember the soldiers who served in all the wars. God bless the servicemen, and God bless America. I'll be there tomorrow to honor our Post 3208 VFW veterans and all the veterans. Hope to see you there.

  2. Thank you John Crawford for reminding us all.

    Thank you each and everyone reading this who served.

    Have a thoughtful and grateful Memorial Day, everyone.

  3. This country is losing touch with itself. The military has become sequestered, pushed off to the side, and its vital work is unknown to most. Many people now seem content to lead silly, inconsequential lives built around acquisition and consumption. There is certainly little nobility in that.

  4. See through it allMay 30, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    9:36 you're absolutely right on, the government and the corporations have transformed "citizens" into "consumers". And we let them do it, as education gets dumbed down and critical thinking goes out the window. Easy money, easy credit, lots of advertising in an explosion of media...

    Pavlovian, isn't it? All for money.

  5. John, congrats on hitting the 35K mark just now!

  6. Beautifully written article Crawford. Thanks.

  7. My dad came back from Viet Nam addicted to heroin.

  8. Pops was Army Air Corp mechanic WWII, North hero!May 30, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Too many people equate memorial day with veterans day, they are not the same.

  9. Hey Tattler, once again you've been inspiring.
    Since your Friday article, the city website has done some reconfiguring.
    Staff working overtime?
    Time and a half holiday pay?

  10. A young man from Sierra Madre graduated from LaSalle and then graduated from Marquette. He entered the Navy as an officer. I have great memories going to many wonderful school dances, basketball games and party's at his home on Grandview with his beautiful two sisters and lovely gracious parents. They were a giving and loving family, never said a mean or nasty word about anyone. Always would pick us up to take us to a game, a party, to church or to an event if a parent could not do it, they were always there. Happy, giving, compassionate, and FUN!!

    He was bright, scholarly, fun and filled with life. He went off to Viet Nam. We got the news that he was in a jet and ejected. But, the cockpit was facing the water.

    When the wall was built I had to go and visit him. I made myself go Memorial Day because I knew I had a lot to learn, besides visiting my friend, I sat and watched other people cry and grieve as their story's played out. My heart broke with theirs. I understand why this is a day we must stop and thank these Angels in Heaven. Even if you survived, you are an angel and we are not giving you enough to show our appreciation.

    Thank you for your story John.

  11. Dear John,
    Thanks for your article. The forgotten returning vets are a political issue in and of itself. We must have them here in our Sierra Madre. They need more help than they are receiving. Another group of people being ignored.

    Can we use CRA money to help them. Seriously. I know a few that are jobless and depressed and are not getting help. Too embarrassed to admit it.
    Uncle of Returning Vet


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