Today is the day that I choose to mark Memorial Day.
I don’t go quite far enough back to call it Decoration Day, but I am old enough to remember when this was the day families went to cemeteries and checked on loved-ones’ graves, paying special attention to those with small American flags signifying a veteran’s gravesite. When was it that Memorial Day became a chance to have a three-day weekend and hit the stores for the sales? It is now with surprise that I note some calendars still have “Traditional Memorial Day” written on them on May 30th.
Hillsborough commemorated Memorial Day on Saturday with a hometown parade that was an old-fashioned blend of flags, scouts, sports teams, a beauty queen, fire trucks and ambulances, and the High School Marching Band. Following the parade there was a service at the Municipal Building’s Garden of Honor with the placing of wreaths, firing of a salute, singing of Amazing Grace, and the playing of Taps. Then was the community picnic.
But first, early in the morning before the parades and the public celebrations, the Township paid tribute to Hillsborough’s Veteran’s at a breakfast given in their honor.
The room was filled with neighbors who had always seemed familiar to me, but suddenly I didn’t seem to know them at all. Up until that moment they were the people who move anonymously around us all: they are in line when we check out of a store, they work at local businesses, they are police officers and firemen, members of the rescue squad, politicians, nurses, they can be anyone you meet.
Each veteran present, from those who served during World War II to those currently serving, stood – some less steadily than others - and gave their names, their service branch, where they served and what they did.
These people talking about their experiences suddenly turned into people I didn’t recognize, heroes who left the comfort of their homes to serve their country in one capacity or another.
You should have been there. You should have been there.