Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

By Flag by djwest36

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day in the United States. A tradition of honouring the fallen that began after the Civil War--still the war that has caused the greatest number of casualties for the USA, and the last one fought on US soil--Memorial Day is a somber occasion that has been transformed into a celebration of the beginning of summer, with picnics, family gatherings, summer sports like fishing, and travel.

I first became aware of Memorial Day because of an American couple who used to visit Canada every Memorial Day, spending the weekend in a different city each year, and who visited us one year when their destination coincided with our home city for that year. They are not alone in crossing the border for a holiday, while others stay closer to home.

In the spirit of celebrating, yet honouring service, award-winning blogger Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman, has dedicated one of her photo assignments the last few days to the theme of troops "Coming Home". While the theme was initially inspired by the reunion photos submitted for her "Happiness" assignment, the photos submitted this time include both the joy of the returning, and the sadness for the families of the fallen. All the photos honour those who have served. Some are from WWII, others much more recent. A selection of the submissions follows, and more can be seen at The Pioneer Woman, Photography, where the final post in the series shares the number of submissions and comments, and the fact that The Pioneer Woman will donate $1 for each of all of these to the charity Operation Homefront which helps the returning, the wounded, and their families.

By Lindsay 0526

By Pamelala

By Stephanieabh

By HisBride

By The Coach's Wife

By Kel60

By Mrs W2008

By Ladycop 79

By Noel Cuthbertson, 

By Gwenshep

By Mooshinidie

By Kristin02

By MissFanciePants

By Ivoryhut

By Jayner82ksu

By Kirsten67

By Erin Dietrich1

By nthedarkroom

By AbiFarley

By KathleenAmelia

By BJG

By Lil-Bee

By MamaBrit Photography

By Cmhalsey74

By S.L. Smith Photography

By Aileen Reilly 

By Camador21

In the spirit of honouring the people who actually do the service, as opposed to the governments who decide when, where, why, and how,

To all American Readers,
and those in the US,
Happy Memorial Day!

By Jblthompson

Please share how you spent your Memorial Day, or did so in the past.
If you are not American, or are bi-cultural, does your (other) country/ culture have a similar celebration?
Which is your favourite photo here? Why?
What troop homecomings have you experienced? What losses?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

14 comments:

Susanne said...

Ahhh, what a beautiful post! Reunion and grave pictures get me every time! *sniff* These are fantastic and capture so much emotion.

Thank you for thinking of us/them! <3

Qusay said...

No one does pics like you do C :)

I am just sad that this Memorial Day will be known for another incident :(

Usman said...

Do they also celebrate any memorial day for the people they have killed around the world or all they have the gratitude for their Killing Machine?

Chiara said...

Susanne--Thank you and you are welcome. I found the idea this year particularly moving. It may be one of those things I wonder why about, and then realize it has to do with my dad not coming home anymore, or from another perspective having returned home to his family and watching over us.

Do you have a favourite photo? It was so hard even to select only these, there are so many wonderful ones.

I like the first one because it is a very realistic part of a homecoming for a dad that a child never met or doesn't remember. Smart daddy, letting her take her time, and warm up to a teddy bear first!

But I like them all, and I'm glad the ones with the women returning were posted just before I put this post up so I could include them as well.

Share your favourites and tell us how you spent Memorial Day!

Thanks again for your comment!

Chiara said...

Qusay--Thanks! :)
Yes, I can't write about that incident--yet! But the approach is firmly in mind and it will be posted.

This post was completed May 30--with a few late photo additions, because, well... LOL :)--and timed for Memorial Day, itself.

I am glad, because all those who serve do so at the discretion of their governments, who are the ones to be held accountable for tactical and strategic decisions.

These homecomings combine both the joy of the safe and the personal sadness and honour of the fallen.

Thanks for your comment! :)

Chiara said...

Usman--I am guessing that they don't.:)

I know in Canada Remembrance Day is a bit of a combination of Veterans Day and Memorial Day (minus the 1st weekend of summer aspect), but it is interesting that they are distinct in the US.

Any similar tradition of honouring troops, war heros, the fallen, in Pakistan?

Usman said...

Simple, Ignorant and emotional Pakistanis who make up the majority of our nation celebrate 6th September as their National Defense Day in the memory of 1965 Pakistan-India War. 16th December is the day when Pakistanis have mourning day in the memory of 1971 Pakistan-India War when East Pakistan became a separate country, Bangladesh. History taught in Pakistan, details that Indian and their proxy tactics were the sole responsible for the succession of East Pakistan. And that they, the Indians, were the one who massacred a large number of Bengali then. When I was a kid, I, too, used to celebrate those days just like everybody else.

Now, I'm a grown up boy...., have traveled around the world, and have overcome superficial jingoistic sentiments. I learned that..., and I learned it from Bengalis, that Pakistan Army took a great measure to strike on innocent Bengali people, then the citizen of their own country. Beside Indians and their proxy tactics, Pakistan Military too have had their share of war crimes. The cause of succession was not the Indian interference, but Pakistan's own long held military rule and Martial Law of 1960s. Moreover, Pakistan Army killed thousands of Bengalis over the course of months. There are even some rape allegations which I deem them to be true.

Today, I no more celebrate those "holidays", keep a disdain toward the "my troops", and remember 16th December as remembrance day for the Bengali population massacred by Pakistan Army. I believe that most nations have more or less the same history. All nations who keep a large military have had their share of war crimes sometimes in their history. Some citizens of those countries acknowledge those crimes..,most don't.

Coming back to the subject.., I would probably have had some respect for these soldiers and the public who pay them gratitude, had they been defending their nation at their borders from foreign aggression. But the fact that United States has never been attacked by any foreign nation and yet they send military to thousands of miles way to keep up their imperialistic ambitions make this military a Killing Machine only. Come a hundred years, and historian will remember them as guardians of an Empire rather than merely the soldiers on defense.

Susanne said...

Chiara, I can see how your dad's recent Homegoing would influence you towards publishing this post. The pictures are a mix of wistful (such as the graves and the old woman bent over near the memorial) and joyful. I am drawn to both. The old lady there to honor her son or father or brother whose name is etched on the wall. So touching. And then the extreme joy on some faces such as beaming father with his pink-sweater clad daughter who is equally delighted to see that guy from Skype holding her in real life. The black-and-white photo of the father hugging his son and the emotion on his face - wow. The solider by the casket -- remembering a friend who died? The people in the graveyards - placing flags, bowing there with sadness. So many good ones for many different reasons. They all teach us how war separates - some for just a few months or years while some are separated for the rest of this life. These photos are very real reminders of the seriousness of conflict and how it affects the lives of regular people.

And I know that goes for both sides as there are awful separations among those who lost loved ones during battles. And sadly it's been happening for years and years and years. War is just hell, isn't it? :(

On a lighter note, I love the little guy in the in the next-to-last picture dressed up in his finest! :)

coolred38 said...

Love your picture posts Chiara...my favorite is the tombstone that reads Unknown...I see this as not only an indication of the unknown identity of its unfortunate resident...but the unknown reasons for which we go to war anyways....which require cemetaires full of those sorts of tombstones...*sigh*

oby said...

thanks for the tribute Chiara...I have always thought of Memorial day as not only the beginning of the summer, but also as a time to remember all those who have died during war...not only soldiers but civilians too. I won't say I "celebrate" it because it is due to war that we even have the day, but I try to be mindful of all people who have died due to conflict and say a general prayer for all their souls. Also, in our family anyway, we used to remember deceased members of the family even those who had nothing to do with the military. It became sort of a catch all day to remind us of our family members who are no longer with us. I do think it is accurate to say that it is about family get togethers and picnics and friends and excitement about the start of summer. So for me it has always been a bit bittersweet...summer combined with the knowledge that many people have died to bring us this day.

I like several of the photos but I think the one of the elderly lady looking for someone on the wall. Is it a husband? A son or even a daughter or granddaughter? So many names, so many people all loved by someone and now gone... just as civilians are gone as well. the commonality of the sense of loss is universal.

Chiara said...

I want to point out SGIME's post on the meaning of Memorial Day for her, and how that has changed over time. She also includes a poem, and a number of sites that give Americans, or anyone for that matter, the opportunity to provide moral support, letters, and care packages to those currently serving.

The post is Memorial Day 2010

Canada offers similar sites for support of those serving currently in Afghanistan, grouped here:

Support Our Troops

oby11 said...

SGIME's tribute is quite moving and brought tears to my eyes...It reminds me of the time I was living in France for a few months. I visited an American cemetery there for all the soldiers that had fought during WWII and didn't make it home...a sea of white crosses or stars of david. We stood on the beach where some German bunkers were and from atop a hill could look down on the ocean and imagine all the chaos, bullets, fear, and bravery for those men to run directly into the line of fire.

I had forgotten that particular memory until reading that post.

Thanks for the link.

Chiara said...

Usman--thanks for your follow-up comment and sharing about Pakistan and your own evolution. I do think there has been the notion of a US Empire floated at least in academic circles. It would be hard to argue that the US hasn't sought to expand its sphere of influence. I do think that for the individual person in service and their loved ones that there is a place to recognize their joys and sorrows on a humane level. Thanks again!

Susanne--you are so compassionate! Thank you for sharing more about the photos that struck you and how. It does seem that those who have served in combat appreciate that war is hell and are less hawkish (with exceptions of course). I agree the little guy in his finest and his Marine dad are stand outs. They look like they are ready for film roles! :)

Chiara said...

Coolred--I'm glad you like the picture posts. What an insightful comment! Indeed, most people, have but a confused sense of the reasons that the war was SUPPOSED to be about. It doesn't help that they reasons change as the war drags on. It seems Canada will be leaving more troops in Afghanistan post-2011 than previously announced. However, I have always thought that Harper will allow his arm to be twisted by the US to leave combat troops in. We shall see. Even the people who were for that war now wonder what we are/were doing there.

Oby--thanks for both your comments! I am happy to have provided this tribute to the individual Americans who serve. What wonderful traditions your family has. I agree the elderly woman is a very striking figure...so devoted though so frail. I think the next photo gives a sense too of all the names on the wall, which was a moving monument to visit.

I left a comment on SGIME's post about my own experience of visiting the beaches in Normandy. It was so moving, and maybe more so to share it with French and Belgian friends who have their own national histories to remember while gazing on the sea and the shore.

Thanks again to all for your comments! :)

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