A Memorial Day Story

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A Memorial Day Story

Memorial Day: What does it mean to us today? The beginning of the summer season, a 3-day weekend of picnics and barbecues, a white sale at Macy’s, mattress sales, car deals, a Memorial Day double header at the ball park, everything but a somber day of reflection on the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Union General John A. Logan proclaimed the holiday: “The 30th of May1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Memorial Day began for me one summer afternoon, on Stanley Drive in Penn Hills, PA, when I witnessed Marines in their dress blues knock on my neighbor’s front door. Martin J. Robinson - we all called him Marty - was like a big brother to me. He always took the time to pitch whiffle ball, or throw a football with the younger kids on the block. He taught me a proper batting stance and how to throw a tight spiral with a football. He always wore his hair in a “flat top.” When my parents sent me to the barber shop, I always asked the barber for a flattop haircut. Marty was my idol. Flat-topped Eagle Scout, hunter and fisherman, college man, he finished a year in school and joined the Marines. Soon he found himself in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam, much different than the woods, streams and hills of Western Pennsylvania. There, he spilled his life’s blood along with 58,000+ of his brothers and sisters, each with a story, each with family and friends whose lives would never be the same because of their loss. Their bodies now lie in every city, village and hamlet churchyard throughout this land, along with those from every conflict and war we have ever fought in. They cry out, can you hear them? “Please don’t forget me!  I laid down my life for my country and I would do it all over again but, please promise that you won’t forget me!” 

So on this Memorial Day, never forget the fallen. Tell their stories, honor their sacrifices. Pass their stories on to your children and your children’s children so that they, too, will never forget.

Arthur C. Flickinger