A day to give thanks
● By J. Chambless
This Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day.
What does that mean to you?
It means a day off of work and school. It means the unofficial start of the summer beach season. It means sales at the mall. And, for a rapidly shrinking number of Americans, it means a day to remember the men and women who have served our country.
Once, the nation gathered solemnly in towns large and small on Memorial Day to salute graying veterans of conflicts past, to place hands on hearts before the flag, and to lay a wreath at the local veterans memorial. But too many towns are sweeping the pageantry aside, canceling parades and memorials due to lack of participants, or just lack of interest. Locally, the Kennett Square parade is an exception, drawing a long roster of marchers and thousands of spectators each year.
On Monday, there will be World War II veterans honored in Kennett Square as Grand Marshals. With thousands of veterans of this war passing away every year, the global cataclysm of the 1940s is fading from first-hand experience. It's becoming something seen only in documentaries and history books.
That's the way it has always been. Ray Natale of West Grove, who is profiled in this issue of the Chester County Press, remembers watching Memorial Day parades as a boy, and seeing veterans of World War I riding past. But Natale's wartime experiences – and those of his four brothers, all of whom served in World War II – are becoming only distant memories.
There have always been wars, and there will always be veterans. And while the world is now at our fingertips every minute of the day, war still seems like something that happens somewhere else. It's a 10-second video of a bomb's aftermath, or of Humvees racing across the desert. For most Americans, it's not somebody they know who's face-down in the dirt, gripping a gun and scared to death.
So take an hour or so on Monday to stand and wave as the marching bands and cars and flags and veterans go past you in Kennett Square. Take a moment to say a prayer for all the soldiers who have steeled themselves and done what had to be done, despite the odds. And remember those who have come home and are struggling with the aftermath of war.
All veterans made sacrifices. Some did their duty and got out. And some never came home. They are all deserving of our deepest thanks.