Memorial Day Momory

Robert Flournoy


Copyright 2007 by Robert Flournoy  

Picture of the confederate battle flag.  Copyright (c) 2017 by Robert Flournoy.

Nineteen sixty-five was not a good year to graduate from high school. The draft was in full force, and the war in Vietnam was on the upswing, taking ten more long years to end. I had 2 close boy-hood friends who lived on each side of my house in the early 1960’s, both gone by the end of that decade, plus many football team mates, and others in the school. Not to mention those that I served with, 40 in my battalion in one day alone.

The heartbreak was mostly for their mothers, fathers, children, spouses, grandparents, and their unborn, missing them now for over 40 years. I used to go back to the Virginia neighborhoods where I was a teenager, and would drive by the houses of those boys, knowing that there were aging people inside, empty with loss. Even they are gone now, as well as my own parents, those houses no longer even haunted by the ghosts of those souls that departed so far away.

I try and concentrate on events, memories, still photos of them all, in my mind, but it is hard to do now, although I feel some ritual is necessary. A meaningful gesture is hard to get my hands around on Memorial Day, so they just come, and go. I do not attend reunions, not that Vietnam vets have many, or march in parades. I would very much like to live near The Wall today, so I could go there and sit with a cup of coffee for a few hours, but that is not possible.

The largest Confederate cemetery in the land is about 15 minutes from my house. It is a peaceful, well-kept place, green, with soft breezes. I have ancestors from the battles of Franklin, and Nashville that are buried there, so it is a good place to wander through on days like today.

Many of the graves of the 2,000 dead are marked individually, and still decorated by family descendants. Most are buried under stones that read “276 Dead from Texas”, or “177 Dead from Georgia”, as those boys were unidentified. There are large monuments that simply say “366 Unknown”.

Click this link if you are interested, and above is a photo that I took at the cemetery. I call it Traveler’s head, Traveler being the trusted steed of Robert E. Lee, whose fallen soldiers inspired the first Memorial Day, when Mississippi widows would adorn the graves of that lost southern generation with flowers. It was called Flower Day, and soon the whole country would adopt that beloved custom with Decoration Day, and eventually Memorial Day for the now solidly united nation.

I wonder how many will pause, and reflect on the true meaning of this holiday. Not many, probably, unless there are now fading photographs on their walls and mantels of boys who went away, soldiers once, and young.

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