By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel
I saw veterans Saturday selling commemorative poppies: a reminder Memorial Day is coming.
It will be Monday, May 27, this year. As for decades, there will be parades and ceremonies in both in Saugatuck and Douglas an hour later.
Afterward an honor guard will move on to local cemeteries to commemorate men and women who served our country. It’s a somber holiday.
Decoration Day, as it was first called, began a little more than a century and a half ago, about the time Saugatuck was incorporated into a village. It started when people in a small New York took it on themselves to clean up their local cemetery grounds and put flowers on graves in memory of soldiers who had died during the Civil War.
Not long after the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic instructed others across nationwide to continue the practice. From then until 1970, the holiday was observed on May 30.
That year, Memorial Day, despite snitting and snorting about the change in tradition, was moved to the last Monday of the month.
Many of us think this day marks the unofficial start of summer. If weather cooperates barbecue grills will be put to use, people will finish planting gardens and most of us enjoy a day off from work. As we should.
A few years back Pat and I were invited by Rabbi and Mrs. Marx to their home for dinner. Candles were lit and thanksgiving prayers said, with our host adding, “When you bless the bread, then you must eat the bread.”
Many of us will gather on Memorial Day morning to return our appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I hope you will join us. Even if you cannot, seeing so many American flags on homes and elsewhere, and remembering the day is important.
We’ll also remember those in service today, many of them risking their lives on our behalf. After the Commanding Officer thanks us for being there and dismisses us, we will “eat the bread” by investing the rest of the day as we choose.
Thanks to those we remember in the morning, we have the freedom to work in our gardens, go on a picnic, enjoy being on the water or golf courses. No dictator is ordering us to attend a mass, highly-choreographed rally. No one, within rather wide limits, is telling us what we can or cannot do. We get to use (not abuse or misuse) the freedoms that have been handed down to us.