In my RV travels over the years, I have stood in awe at the people and stories behind the War Memorials I have had the privilege to visit. And I had no idea where the idea of memorials came from but thanks to the Internet, I discovered President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation on May 26, 1966, recognizing Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
That didn’t happen overnight. In 1865 (almost a hundred years earlier!), a Waterloo druggist, Henry Welles, mentioned to friends that while praising the living Civil War Vets, they should also remember the patriotic dead by decorating their graves. In 1866, the village of Waterloo marched to their three cemeteries for ceremonies and grave decoration.
I haven’t been in Washington DC since the World War II Memorial was built that honors the 16 million U. S. armed forces who served and the 400,000 who died. This was dedicated on May 29, 2004, with the Lincoln Memorial to the west and the Washington Monument to the east.
Perhaps you have seen the Viet Nam Wall as it has crossed the country. I saw it in Quartzsite and somewhere in the NW and the real thing in DC. It is impressive as is the Memorial for the Korean War Memorial. I had two brothers and two stepbrothers in WWII, a brother and stepbrother in the service between wars, and a brother who wouldn’t talk about his Korean War experiences until I caught him in a conversation after I visited there in 1985. I learned more than he had ever shared before but I don’t think he even remembered I was with him as he reverted into his painful memories.
With my youngest daughter living so close to Bedford, VA, and the National D-Day Memorial, I have visited there several times. It is beautiful with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background and all the flags flying. This memorial to the WWII American D-Day veterans is international in its scope, as it is also a “tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944.” It opened in June of 2001. Bedford, chosen for the memorial because this tiny town tucked in the Blue Ridge suffered the greatest loss of life per capita during the invasion than any other town in the country.
Sometimes in the joy of a long weekend, we forget why we have Memorial Day or perhaps we deposit the obligatory lilacs, then go camping or hiking or golfing. That’s o.k., life is for the living, but on this Memorial Day take time to remember our veterans who have served and are serving to protect our freedoms and especially remember those who have not returned. God Bless until next week.
Minshall’s RVing Alaska and Canada (A “How to” and “Why not” book) is available thru Amazon.
At 45, Widow Minshall began 20 years of solo full-time RVing throughout Alaska, Mexico, and Canada. Sharlene canoed the Yukon, mushed sled dogs, worked a dude ranch, visited Hudson Bay polar bears, and lived six months on a Mexican beach. She lectured at Life on Wheels, published six RV-related books and wrote a novel, “Winter in the Wilderness.”