Fred and I were planning our Memorial Day activities and gravitated to a discussion about the real meaning of Memorial Day. We began to recall our many school and college teachers who had been involved in World War II.
Since Memorial Day weekend has become a three day holiday of fun and frolic, we realize that many have forgotten or might not know the real reason for this holiday.
Memorial Day is a solemn day; a time for reverence and honoring our fallen soldiers; those who have died in the American armed forces. It is a time when we honor those who left home to serve in the Armed Forces, but never came back.
Most of the WWII veterans are gone, but those of us 70 years or older can recall experiences from the post-war era. You see, we were taught by WWII veterans, and many in our age group had parents who served in that war.
But, like most kids, we had no idea the gravity of what all of this meant. We were clueless.
Fred remembers his teacher/principal in grade school. This man was quick-tempered and did not want to talk about anything that had to do with the war. He had been a prisoner of war. That fact was aired about, but the kids didn’t understand the ramifications of what the teacher had experienced. Baseball games, and what’s for dinner…that was what was important.
I remember a middle school teacher, Clarabel. She was a typical “old maid” type.
She wore her long hair rolled over one of her ears. We knew something was strange about her, but we were never mean or disrespectful to her. Thank God. But, we were aware that she was missing an ear, and that it had been cut off during the “war”. We had NO idea what that meant. If only I could interview her now!
My high school biology teacher was a soft-speaking, gentle teacher. Rumor had it that there was a steel plate in his head and a part of his palate was rebuilt. It never entered our little pea brains that he had been in the war too.
My high school Spanish teacher was equally impaired. He was a kind, effective teacher. He, too, had incurred an injury in the service, and we think he had an artificial eye. We never asked.
(We never considered that these teachers were “real” people. They wore suits every day. The women teachers dressed in heels and dresses. That’s just how they were ALL the time. They lived at the school. They didn’t have families, did they?)
We respected them. And, we did learn valuable lessons from these deeply patriotic teachers.
Somewhere in their most likely horrific experiences in the war, they had decided to carry the torch; to teach us what is important; to stress to us what a wonderful country and system we had; the greatest nation on the earth.
I hope we still have at least a portion of that patriotism and idealism left in our hearts.
One teacher in particular would occasionally deviate from the lesson, sit down on the desk, and in a relaxed manner, spend the hour teaching us about democracy, about rights needing to be maintained through responsibility; that responsibility insures those rights. He taught us that it would be up to us to maintain the freedom and system that we have; he taught us about integrity, and keeping our word.
You could have heard a pin drop.
Many of Fred’s teachers did the same. And often, they didn’t have to say anything. They modeled for us the way to act, and taught us through disciplines how a member of society must assume responsibility for his or her actions. They used the stick on us!
We didn’t understand that it is a fact that we are the beacon light of freedom because of the shed blood of many. We can be as idealistic as we wish, but the facts are the facts.
Our teachers, Fred’s principal, Dr. Brenner, who experienced the “Bataan Death March,” and many others, would be rolling in their graves if they knew how very short our memories are.
But, we do have this holiday to remember. We can do the right thing. We can remember and honor these men and women.
We can take on the responsibilities that go with our rights. We can remember.
And we do remember in observing Memorial Day. We will not forget.
“A Woman’s View” is Judi Tabler’s reflection of her experiences and events. She is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, grandmother, and even a great grandmother. Contact Annie at pprarieannie@gmailcom