I recently learned of another attribute of being the middle child -- family historian. How wonderful, I thought; I’ve been looking for more to do in my day. Besides, I’m the sibling in the middle; you know, the pleaser, the inventive one. I suppose this could be fun, maybe rather interesting, I announced with the slightest of sarcasm. So I accepted the 15-plus boxes with a smile.
As I began my examination of their contents, I quickly found this “project” had merit with the discovery of newspaper articles; timeless photographs; letters from an airman to his parents; hand-written notes of relatives attempting to save the generational stories of wartime, including a cousin’s recount of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge and an uncle’s of World War I and the Spanish American War. I found myself perusing for hours through memorabilia spanning five generations. As I sorted through all the history, my father’s resolve of one’s service to his country became more apparent. He instilled in us the importance of giving back. Growing up, he spoke often of his service in the U.S. Air Force as a JAG. There were also depictions of his great uncle, John D. Frost, an ardent military man who, at 27, enlisted with the 1st SCVI (1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry) and fought in the Spanish American War as Lieutenant-Colonel 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment and later as Major. Frost continued his allegiance as a founding member of Post No. 28 American Legion Spartanburg and made important contributions to its programs.
This significant history has been handed to me like a new gift; unexpected and remarkable. It is so important that the stories of our relatives as brave and courageous servicemen be transferred ever so carefully from one generation to the next. It would be a calamity to lose the details, the opinions, the tales. One item I came across proved to be extremely timely and resourceful in respect to Memorial Day. It was a photograph of my father and me wearing the red paper poppies we had just purchased from a veteran on Main Street in Columbia. This picture leads to my daughter’s inquiry about the meaning of Memorial Day and the red paper poppies. As I listened carefully to a relative working to give her an answer, I was astonished at the holes in their response and began to doubt I could give her more particulars.
All of this brought my attention to some oddities about the holiday. With statements like “Don’t forget your Memorial Day Smoked Briskets”; “Memorial Day Wings & Wheels Show”; “Sean Elliott’s Memorial Day Miracle”; “Memorial Day at Best Buy”; and “Top Memorial Day Pet Tips”, I began to wonder myself about how much weight did Memorial Day still carry. Was its meaning still credible? Now, of course, I realize the significance of retailers and hanging on to the coat-tails of certain holidays, but we have to preserve the original intention of Memorial Day. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, asked that America remember those lost in the Civil War by “gathering around their sacred remains; to garland the passionless mounds … with choicest flowers; and raise above them the dear old flag they saved.” Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a time to remember our fallen heroes. It is about remembering those who have given their all to protect the freedoms we enjoy. It is about taking our children to a veterans’ cemetery and laying flowers on a soldier’s grave. It is about placing small American flags at these grave sites. It is about wearing the red poppy we buy from a veteran in honor of those who died serving our nation during war. It is about flying our flag at half-staff until noon. It is about pausing in our busy day for a moment of silence to honor who have died for our freedoms. It is about revering the more than 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 1776. They served on land, air, and sea in lonely outposts, dusty camps, along barbed wire barriers in foreign lands, on guard against the enemies.
So as we gather with family and friends around the barbecue, let us remember the fallen, those who have died in service to our country. It is also a time to thank our servicemen and women serving today. No nation has ever had a better military force than the one we have today. And there’s no greater accolade to those presently serving than honoring the veterans who preceded them.
“We cherish too, the Poppy red, that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies, that blood of heroes never dies.”