Memorial Day – an American holiday set aside to honor military men and women who died serving our country. It originated following the Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day.
Memorial Day is a day to refresh our memories regarding people and events. The majority of Americans honor this day by decorating graves in cemeteries, going to parades and/or having picnics. I want to tie together these three ways of remembering. Balloons will be the common denominator.
Historical memories are jarred when we go to cemeteries to decorate graves. We recall the wars that are part of our nation’s history. We remember our ancestors who gave their lives during these battles. Our country has a rich heritage to be remembered and honored.
While visiting cemeteries and placing wreaths on graves, there may be some sorrowful tears shed. However, flowers placed near the tombstones may also speak of life. Symbols of lives once lived on earth and now lived in heaven. If this is where you find yourself on Memorial Day, reflect on some happy memories. There are stories of life to be told at the sites honoring the dead. Maybe you can tie a balloon to a bouquet of flowers.
For me, balloons in a cemetery trigger a memory of my father. I remember his life and his legacy. Although he did not serve in the military, he loved his country. He was a farmer who lived to be 91 years old. While in the cemetery for the burial of his body, we celebrated his life by having each of his great grandchildren release a green balloon. (We chose green because he was Irish.) It was amazing to watch one of these flying balloons float towards the farm that had provided his livelihood.
The story continued a few weeks later in a restaurant’s parking lot. Our son and daughter-in-law had gone out to dinner. Their two-year-old daughter was given a balloon as they left. Once they were outdoors, Anna let go of her balloon. Mom and Dad sighed and promised that she could get another one soon. However, Anna was not unhappy – she was smiling. Her response, “I let the balloon go so Great Grandpa can play with it in heaven!”
Some memories bring smiles while others bring tears. Both are experienced on Memorial Day.
Parades offer the opportunity to create new memories. Family traditions are established as relatives join together to watch a parade. A parade that includes marching military men and women who may have been involved in active combat. Soldiers currently serving our country are also part of the spectacular scene. Bands play patriotic songs. American flags proudly wave in the breeze. Patriotic balloons are carried by parade participants and shared with sideline observers.
There may be a trio of red, white and blue balloons tied to a sign announcing “Picnic Held Here!” Food and fond memories are in abundance at these gatherings. While eating hot dogs, stories may be shared about family members who are no longer in attendance. Children may hear anecdotes of grandparents and great grandparents they never knew. Possibly, a photograph of a relative in military uniform is displayed.
In a few days, we will join in Memorial Day celebrations.
Maybe it will be a time to release some red, white and blue balloons in memory of those who died serving our country. You may choose to add a balloon of another color to represent someone special. I encourage you to honor the veterans in your midst. They may be coping with PTSD and recalling some difficult memories today. Take time to give thanks for a life given sacrificially for our country. Take pride in the people who took pride in serving their country. According to Romans 13:7, let us give honor to whom honor is due.
In a Memorial Day speech 2019, Vice President Mike Pence said, “Their duty was to serve. Our duty is to honor.” Romans 13:7 instruct us to us give honor to whom honor is due. May we comply with these words of wisdom on May 31, 2021.