Memorial Day Memories By Brian G. Schommer Once known as “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day was observed on May 30th from 1868 to 1970, when it was officially moved to the last Monday of May. Many …
Memorial Day Memories
By Brian G. Schommer
Once known as “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day was observed on May 30th from 1868 to 1970, when it was officially moved to the last Monday of May. Many consider Memorial Day the unofficial start to summer, with its counterpart, Labor Day (the first Monday of September) marking the unofficial start of autumn. Memorial Day is set aside to honor and mourn military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This history lesson has been brought to you by our friends at Wikipedia. We are now about to embark on a reflection of Memorial Day memories and, while I can only share my own… I encourage you to look back at your own.
For as long as I can remember, a big part of Memorial Day included going to Roadside Park for the annual celebration in front of the monument inscribed with the names of local service members, many of whom lost their lives while defending our country. I had several uncles and aunts named on that monument, none of whom lost their lives and all who shared their love of God and Country with me. I remember listening intently to the benediction and praying for the men and women in our military with hopes their names would not be added to the killed or missing in action list. The speeches from different military and government leaders always seemed to hit home with me. As early as 10 or 11 years old, this ceremony is how I started my Memorial Day. As the event concluded, I would jump on my bike, head over to Maple Street, dash across Highway 55 and hightail it to my Uncle George and Aunt Sara’s house at the corner of 2nd and River Streets to watch the military procession from Roadside to the Soldiers & Sailors Cemetery (by Regina Hospital).
If you have never walked through this landmark, put it on your “to do” list. The history goes back as far as the Spanish American and Civil Wars. The land was purchased by the Peller Post 89 of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1905. This cemetery is a great reminder of the sacrifices that have been made over time. It is a very peaceful place with numerous unmarked graves and, as customary with any cemetery, walking through the premises should be done with reverence. Again, if you have never done this, I highly recommend it and, if you have younger children or grandchildren, it provides a great opportunity to share our countries history.
A 21-gun salute and taps completed this part of the day. The VFW, American Legion, their Auxiliaries, and other dignitaries would then march to Levee Park along the Mississippi River, and trying to stay ahead of the crowd, I would beeline it down 2nd Street hill, another highlight of the day. Nobody had to tell me that this day was important, it was apparent to me, if not inherent as military influence was strong in our family. At the river, there would be more patriotic words, stories and reverence given to the memories of those who gave all, our flag, and our nation. Another 21-gun salute and the familiar sound of a single trumpet playing taps would mark the end of the official Memorial Day events. I remember biking home and thinking how someday, I wanted to serve our country and make a difference in the world. A short stint in ROTC is as close as I would come. Asthma and other circumstances had a different plan for me.
Memorial Day also included getting together for some “grilling and chilling,” usually landing mom and me at one of my sisters for burgers, hot dogs, a few salads that I would not try and a few cans of pop (soda for those in Wisconsin). As I got older, that pop/soda became beer, which is a beverage that needs no clarification. Relaxing and kicking off the summer, although unofficially, is synonymous with Memorial Day for many people. Another activity that many connect with Memorial Day is BASEBALL.
Prior to 1982, “Memorial Day Baseball” meant going to watch the Hampton Cardinals. My mom grew up near Hampton and we had relatives who played there. It was a natural fit until the Hastings Hawks joined the (at that time) Cannon Valley League. Loyalty for me was a learned behavior, almost engrained into me, so becoming a Hawks fan was a simple transition, especially since my uncle was one of the founders. Ironically, the first game the Hawks ever played was against the Hampton Cardinals at what is now known as Schaffer Field at the Hastings Middle School. Watching a game, chasing foul balls for a dime, and building a passion for “America’s Pastime” that has lasted over 50 years.
There have been many changes in how things are celebrated in our Country. There is a divide in our country, which is not new, and could be argued that it is deeper than it has ever been. We have an opportunity to unite and come together on Monday, May 31st. There will be a Memorial Day Service at the Rotary Pavilion (Levee Park) beginning at 10am. Later that day, the “Memorial Day March for Them” will be ending their 28-mile road march (walk) to honor the men and women who have died while serving our country, also at the Rotary Pavilion. More information about the march can be found at www.marchforthem.org. The Hawks host the Rochester Royals at 2pm at Veterans Park where you can enjoy some grilled burgers, brats, hot dogs, and other food as you spend time with family and friends. They have pop/soda too, but if you are looking to enjoy a beverage with a more agreeable name and YOU ARE OF LEGAL AGE, you will have to bring your own (no glass bottles, please). What do you think, is it time to unite and come together? The opportunities are there and, we can do this while we “Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.”