On Memorial Day, keeping memories alive honors the fallen

By Betty Jass

This year’s remembrance of Memorial Day was bittersweet with the coronavirus restrictions of not having public programs to recognize our Fallen Heroes.

Betty Jass

Many areas weren’t putting up flag displays in their cemeteries to honor them so that crowds do not gather in those places. It just does not seem right being unable to publicly acknowledge our heroes like we have in the past. Even with that said, there is a way by being their Memory Keepers.

A few years ago, I was in Walmart shopping when I noticed a man wearing a “Korean War Veteran” cap and went over and thanked him for his service. While we were talking, he mentioned that he also had a brother that was in World War II and the Korean War, too.

I told him about my two uncles in WWII, my brother and brother-in-law in Vietnam, my service in the Air Force, etc.

After exchanging a few stories, this man asked me if I knew what I was? I was not sure what he meant with a questioning look. He told me that I was a Memory Keeper!

He continued by saying that every time I spoke of my family members’ military service that I was keeping their memory alive. You too, can be a Memory Keeper!

Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead.

After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women who died in any war or military action. It was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II.

Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. We continued to have Memorial Day events for our fallen heroes and decorated their graves and fly our flags at half-staff until noon. We are their Memory Keepers!

There are many ways that we keep the memories of our Fallen Heroes alive. As a family we setup pictures on our shelves at home, we fly a flag outside our homes and put flowers, religious crosses, and other memorabilia on their grave.

Any time we tell stories about their service, maybe about a time in Paris after WWII, nearly freezing in Korea, the extreme temperatures in Vietnam and the sandstorms in the Middle East.

As a community, we often see memorials, we dedicate our American Legion buildings after a Hometown Hero, and we decorate our streets for our veterans.

Dear God, we pray for your guidance during this Memorial Day and keep everyone safe while we honor our Fallen Heroes, for we are their Memory Keepers! Amen.

Betty Jass is the chaplain for The American Legion Department of Minnesota.