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Tue, Nov. 12

Editorial: Always remember those who didn't come home

The gravesite, in Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii, of an unknown person who died aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor is adorned with a flag. (Courtesy photo)

The gravesite, in Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii, of an unknown person who died aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor is adorned with a flag. (Courtesy photo)

Memorial Day began life as Decoration Day - originating from the Civil War and the desire to remember those veterans. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land." Sadly, it somehow morphed into a three-day party weekend. With many, many veterans returning from the Middle East, it would nice to see a renewal of love and care for our soldiers.I'm guessing many more Americans will be hanging out over a BBQ grill rather than paying their respects at a cemetery ceremony - or even inviting over a veteran to partake of their picnic food.My father was a World War II veteran, having served as an infantryman in Europe. He was an active member in the Disabled Americans Veterans. I remember he would don his DAV baseball cap and head out to local cemeteries the weekend before Memorial Day. I tagged along once to help put tiny flags on veterans' graves. I wasn't sure what we were doing that for, so I asked.An old man - at 10, everyone seemed old to me - was working alongside us and he answered me."This is for the men who didn't come back, young lady. These flags carry our pride and our love. Don't forget to honor the men who weren't afraid to leave their homes for you."That was pretty heady stuff for a 10-year-old, but I remembered it because my father continued to teach me respect for the military as I grew up. That's probably why I married a soldier myself. When I had early dreams of joining the U.S. Army, though, my father squashed them quickly. I was mad for a long time because I thought he was telling me women didn't belong in the military. As I got older, I realized he was just plain scared out of his mind that I would be sent into the same situations that he could never forget, even at 80. I didn't fully understand what he did at the young age of 18 until he passed away and my sisters and I went through his belongings. He never talked about specifics. My mom said it was because he didn't want to taint our life with his experiences. We did know he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. His unit was in Italy when peace was declared. He lost a lot of friends and saw some horrors I can never comprehend. As he aged, I accompanied him to bury colleagues and attended many military funerals and saw many sobbing men. It broke my heart each time when "Taps" was played. I'm glad I listened to my father and that old man in the cemetery about why it's important to honor our veterans. Please, go out of your way to be kind to our large population of veterans. Not just this one day, but always. They were willing to do what many of us did not ... serve our country.- Robin Layton, editorFollow Robin Layton on Twitter @RobinLaytonAZ. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 1095, rlayton@prescottaz.com or 928-533-7941.
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