While a lot of the things the kids and I do are just for fun, I believe it’s also important to help them to stop, think, and remember. We’ve tried to teach them proper etiquette and respect, in general matters but also toward our country and its flag. They know when and how to place their hand on their heart when the National Anthem is played, or when the colors are presented at a parade or other observance.
We visited my parents in North Dakota over Memorial Day weekend, and there had the opportunity to participate in an observance that my family went to annually when I was growing up. As I’m sure happens in other parts of the country, the local American Legion travels from cemetery to cemetery and holds a short service. A prayer is said, poppies are laid at the graves of veterans, a gun salute is fired, and Taps is played in a very solemn ceremony.
After the colors are retired, the kids hunt for the empty shell casings to use as whistles. As I think about it, it’s a strange way to end the tradition, but it was the highlight each year of “going to the cemetery” on Memorial Day.
This year, we drove the mile to the rural cemetery and huddled in the car until the Legion members arrived. At a damp 38 degrees with 30 mph winds, it was downright cold on the North Dakota prairie, and we had dug out warm coats, hats, and mittens from Grandma’s closet before leaving the house. The cold didn’t deter people from attending the service, however. There were 17 cars there, with observers ranging in age from 2 to 90. My dad said it was the biggest crowd they’d had in many years.
Some visited graves of loved ones, some waited in their cars until the service began, but all stood in somber remembrance as the colors were presented and the program took place.
Sometimes we have to set aside the fun of holidays and remember what they’re all about.