Saturday, May 26, 2012

Decoration Day By Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln lived in Gordon, Ohio during World War II and remembers what Memorial Days were like during those days.

This day, Memorial Day, used to be called, "Decoration Day," because it was a national holiday created for the express purpose of honoring our dead by visiting the cemeteries and placing flowers or other "decorations" on the gravesites.

When I was young, people cut off flowers (mostly peonies because they were blooming) and put them in glass jars and took them to the cemetery. People got out of their car or horse and buggy and walked to the grave of a relative or friend and cleaned off the tombstone; pulled weeds and left the flowers on the grave site.

Cemeteries used to have local veterans show up on Decoration Day, with flags, and drums and horns to sound the wail called, "Taps," that sent shivers up and down the spines of strong farmers and made mothers wipe their eyes and young ladies bawl like newborns.

The people in charge of the proceedings in nearby Ithaca, some three miles away, shot their large canon off, “Ka-Boom, “and the sound could be heard in Gordon where we were standing around waiting for the soldiers at the cemetery in Ithaca to come to Gordon, to our cemetery and shoot their rifles to honor our dead. We even had a Revolutionary War hero buried in our cemetery but nobody remembers that family name.

Two of old cars, with gasoline ration stickers on the windshields, screeched to a halt at the cemetery where we waited. The men grabbed their rifles and got out. They seemed to fumble with buttons on uniforms that no longer fit. Their Army hats were askew one-way or another. It seemed like we had waited forever for them to get here from Ithaca and there they stood at rigid attention and then marched towards us.

They were a squad of old veterans, marching in tight-fitting uniforms towards us. They stopped and formed a straight line. Their chests were covered in rows of multi-colored ribbons and medals.

At a signal; people got quit and listened to the preacher bless the dead. Somehow he knew the soldiers were already in Heaven and he said their graves were empty. Others spoke about war and veterans while ladies under dainty umbrellas fanned themselves with Stutz and Sando funeral home fans.

And people put hands over their ears when they raised their rifles at the sky. It seemed like these old men fumbled through loading their rifles with blanks, and with fingers stiffened by arthritis and old war wounds, they pointed and at the sky.

We all waited on the word: "Fire!" Nine triggers were squeezed and a volley of sound echoed off the tombstones making those who actually fought in war duck for cover. Babies screamed. Youngsters, like me, dashed around legs and snatched-up, still warm, empty brass shells.

But politicians took Decoration Day away and replaced it with, “Memorial Day," and nothing is like it used to be when I was a boy in Gordon, Ohio.

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