Monday, May 25, 2015

“I think there is one higher office than President - and I would call that patriot.” —Gary Hart

On this Memorial Day, 2015, I am thinking back to when I was a child and the day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice  was called "Decoration Day."  My family lived on a main road, and my brothers and I could watch the parade from the top of our front steps. When we got a little older, we sometimes rode our bicycles after the end of the parade for a few blocks.  I can remember my late mother talking about "Decoration Day" when she was a child, and that many people worked together to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers from all of the wars. (My mother was born in 1922, so decorating the graves of the World War I deceased were also included in her memories.) When I was in junior high school, I learned that for many years following the Civil War, fallen heroes were honored and remembered by their entire families, who would pack picnic lunches to eat graveside after planting flowers and tending to the plot of their loved one. (The honor of sacrifice back then is so much different than the "Memorial Day sales" today.)

How many of today's students know that Decoration Day began three years after the Civil War, and the purpose was to decorate the graves and commemorate the lives of fallen soldiers?  How many know that "Decoration Day" was changed to "Memorial Day" in 1967 to honor all men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America?

Schools today have such a huge emphasis on "teaching to the test", but I am writing this column today with the hope that teachers will remember that schools are the sustainers of our unique American culture.  The knowledge imparted in schools will keep important cultural traditions alive.  Students need to know why Memorial Day is such an important day in the history of our country, and that all veterans should be recognized for their service to our country, especially those who gave their lives. More and more in this crazy world with the emergence of ISIS and their barbaric beheadings, Americans are  recognizing even more that we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today without the sacrifice of the servicemen and women. For me personally, when I see  servicemen and servicewomen, I verbally thank them for their service, and I often shake hands with them as well. The United States of America was built on the backs of her soldiers, and the ones who survived deserve our recognition, just as the ones who were killed deserve to be honored by all Americans. I am not making a political statement about my feelings as a hawk or a dove, just that service to one's country demands respect from others.

Taking a few minutes of classroom time to teach an important life lesson like Decoration Day and Memorial Day is my suggestion. Teaching gratefulness for courage and honor for service are two important lessons not to be missed.  Although questions about these topics will not be on the Pennsylvania Keystone exams, these lessons are as important as any that will be tested.

Today is a good day to honor a fallen soldier with a word, a thought, or a prayer.  Today is also a good day to thank a veteran. I am think of, and thanking my dad, George J. Faltot, WWII veteran, who is in Heaven right now, and I ask you to join me in showing appreciation and thankfulness to all of the veterans in our collective pathways. Have a thoughtful Memorial Day. Dede

My dad, George J. Faltot, in his WWII Army uniform.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

I found an interesting article online about how Decoration Day came into being- very informative.

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