Memorial Day weekend has always felt like the unofficial start of summer in New England. We will be heading up to NH for the weekend to do some hiking and we are still undecided about heading to the lake or maybe going to Portsmouth for a day. Favorite thing about NH….lakes, coast, mountains….you can do them all in a day there if you want! As the blog posts and ads begin touting Memorial Day sales, and we all head out into the long weekend, hopefully we can all take a minute to remember what Memorial Day is all about.
Memorial Day is for our men and women who did not return from service; they gave their lives while serving in a branch of our armed forces. You can certainly thank a veteran on Memorial Day, but this holiday is not about the living. It’s not about veterans that have passed since their service…although some could argue that many of our veterans are back, but never left combat completely. Back during World War I, families would fly a flag with a blue star for each member of the family serving; and if a member died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star to show the community that their family member had sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. Gold Star families in our communities often hold events/fundraisers around Memorial Day which are really awesome ways to remember a soldier who didn’t make it home.
My grandmother was young when both of her parents died within a couple years of each other, and then her brother, Thomas McHugh, died in WWII. He was an aviation machinist on an aircraft carrier that got hit by our own planes. He was a student at MIT, and they lived in Dorchester with their uncle, cousins, and many Irish immigrants. Their uncle Bartley McHugh ran an unofficial boarding house for Irish immigrants. He had a large victory garden, and got his neighbors, friends, and family from Ireland jobs in the electric company for the men, and cleaning houses for the women. A member of a Gold Star family came to speak at my school about remembering the true meaning behind Memorial Day. Her brother was killed in Afghanistan, and so for her family, every day is Memorial Day. The real sentiment I caught from her, and that I remember getting from my grandmother is the overwhelming sadness of what could have been. My grandmother didn’t get to watch the only immediate family member she had left graduate from college, or get married, or have children.
This weekend, there will be much talk of Memorial Day cookouts, outfits, drinks, sales and so on. In Massachusetts, its especially fancy to head to Nantucket for the Figawi sailing race and celebrations. Last year we were in Charleson SC, year before Newport RI, and year before that Chatham on the cape for Memorial Day. This year we are going a little more low key up in NH. Somewhere or sometime during the weekend, I hope that we can all take a few minutes to appreciate our service men and women that did not return home, and for their friends and family who think of them every day.