Jerry’s Journal: Memorial Day and Patriotism

By Jerry Hogan Kasperek

I’m writing this during Memorial Day weekend — the beginning of the summer season, as they say, a time for parades, picnics, planting and opening pools.

I remember when it was called Decoration Day, when it was just one day, May 30, and that summer didn’t start until school got out in June.

I grew up in the WWII era and patriotism is ingrained in me and my memory. There’s been other terrible wars since WWII and I would never diminish the sacrifices that were made during those conflicts, but there has never been anything like WWII. 

It touched every family in America in some way. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and cousins went off to war. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, every able bodied man got called — either drafted or enlisted — to fight for our country.

Everybody knew somebody who went to war and everybody knew somebody who died. How could you not feel pride of country when so many were willing to give their life for it?

It was a time of great love of country, a time when patriotism was not just a weekend of parades and picnics and pictures on TV and in the newspapers. (Besides, few families had a pool back then!)

Some of my patriotic feelings have apparently rubbed off on my kids. My daughter Lynn asked me on Friday why there aren’t as many flags around any more. She said she was riding through town and looking at houses and didn’t see many flags flying.

It bothered her. Where’s the flags, she wondered. Where’s the patriotism?

Yesterday, Ed and I went to a cookout at the home of Mark and Mary Beth Pollock. Mark is a Fulton fireman. He and several other adults had accompanied a group of students, lacrosse players, ages 15 to 18, as they put flags on the graves of veterans in Mt. Adnah and St. Mary’s cemeteries here in Fulton.

If you read the beautifully written letter to the editor, entitled “A job well done,” in the Wednesday, May 21 issue of The Valley News, then you know the story. It’s a great one!

The students had volunteered to place flags on the graves, a yearly duty usually, and faithfully, performed by the local VFW and American Legion, whose memberships are thinning and growing older. Thus the offer of the help was gratefully accepted.

Mark Pollock said it was awesome sight that day — it was like the kids were marching through the cemeteries, searching out the grave stones of veterans, and respectfully, and carefully, putting the flags in the flag holders.

They were reading the names on the grave stones as they went along and talked about what they found and saw.

Mark said he didn’t realize just how many veterans there are in our cemeteries. It was a very profound experience for all involved and he wondered why it isn’t a practice for teachers to take students on field trips to cemeteries.

There’s so much history there, to be found on the headstones, some date back to WWI, some even to the 1800s…

Sunday morning in church, we sang America the Beautiful. “Oh, my gosh, we used to sing that in school! I whispered to Ed.” The words were still familiar and I sang them with gusto.

We sang it nearly every day when I was in elementary school, and that feeling of patriotism that has never died came back to me full force in church yesterday.

Later that day I told my school teacher daughter Karen about it and she said they still sing it in school, and I was so glad! (I was afraid since the word “God” is in it they wouldn’t let them sing it in school anymore.)

Well, Memorial Day weekend is over for another year, and in case you’re wondering, I do like parades and picnics. We don’t have a pool but some of my kids do and I enjoy them.

I’m also very happy the summer season has begun. I especially like planting flowers and digging in the soil, and have enough aches and pains to show for it — it’s hard work getting old!

OK, enough said for now, Dear Readers, I’m going to sign off by sharing the first and last stanzas from America the Beautiful, hoping it’ll brings back good memories to you too, and that you’ll sing it loud and clear!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good
With brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good
With brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Now here’s my caveat: Readers beware! I write for fun. I am not a historian, nor a reporter. I write from memory and from what others want to share. Sometimes I look things up; sometimes I mess things up.

I hope you have fun reading my stuff. Your comments, additions and corrections are always welcome.

You may contact me at 133 Tannery Lane, Fulton, phone 592-7580 or email JHogan808@aol.com. Please put Jerry’s Journal in the subject line. Thanks!

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