Fondly recalling past Memorial Day celebrations
To the editor: It's been a while since I attended an event where the high school band performed The Star-Spangled Banner. There is something about hearing our national anthem that causes a knot to form in my throat. Tears sting my eyes and I struggle greatly to hide the emotion that overcomes me. Why do I want to hide my feelings-the pride I feel in being an American, the gratitude I have for the people who made it possible for me to live in the United States, to pursue my dreams, to live and love pretty much as I please, just being me? When I grew up in Lisbon, there was excitement in our neighborhood-and I suspect all over town-as, several days before Memorial Day, the American Legion members canvassed the village to distribute a candle to each home. The night before Memorial Day-back then it was always May 30, whichever day of the week it happened to be-was a special evening. At 10 p.m. everyone shut off all the lights in their homes, the street lights were extinguished, and most everyone gathered on their porch steps or stoop with only candlelight in the neighborhoods. We listened for the first strains of the voices of Legionnaires singing songs of memoriam for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the face of war.
My Country Tis of Thee (America).
America, the Beautiful.
Battle Hymn of the Republic.
The songs that have significance to each branch of the United States military.
As the Legionnaires, gathered in the back of pickup trucks that wended through the village streets, the voices grew stronger as they neared, and as they passed by and continued on, the voices dimmed. And there was a moment when everyone pondered their own meanings of Memorial Day, a powerful moment of reflection and gratitude, ownership and unity.
Early the next morning, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, donned their uniforms and other kids decorated their bicycles with red, white and blue streamers and blew up balloons to tuck into the spokes of the bicycle tires, then looked for their groups in the lineup for the Memorial Day parade that formed at the American Legion. The streets were crowded between the American Legion hall on West Lincoln Way, to the square, and up Market Street to the cemetery up on the hill on the east side of town. It was a very big deal. Every marcher was given a small American flag to carry along the parade route to the cemetery, where we would break formation and each of us sought the grave of a serviceman at which to place our flag. A high school student always delivered-and still does-the Gettysburg Address. There is a speaker who offers words to remember why we live in "the land of milk and honey," the country that so many people around the world try to flee to every day because they appreciate the rights and privileges that we enjoy-and perhaps take for granted.
As Echoing Taps are performed by two trumpeters, there is another emotional rush, if you give yourself a moment to reflect at your own deepest roots the things that you treasure, the memories of your loved ones who have gone on, a somber moment of respect, a moment to truly understand the meaning behind Memorial Day. I talked to a gentleman recently who was very upset because parents don't teach their children the significance of Memorial Day. "It has become a day off, a day for a picnic, a day to sleep in," he said. "Nobody seems to remember why there is a Memorial Day." Many families have dubbed it the first official weekend of summer with barbecues and picnics and camping outings. Yes, too many people sleep in and too few people attend their community's holiday activities. In Lisbon, the candlelight vigil that I remember as a child has long been gone. And the tradition that followed, gathering at the gazebo on the square has also changed. Now, the American Legion members gather at the Legion Hall on West Lincoln Way and, at 10 p.m. begin to march, escorted by the cruisers of the Lisbon Police Department, to the Erie Train Station. The combined voices of an aging American Legion and the Lisbon Community Choir combine and sing the same songs I remember from long ago. There are prayers and remembrances. And people who do remember why there is a Memorial Day gather there to observe the music, the collective minds and hearts and the 21-gun salute. I will be at the Sunday evening ceremony. I couldn't find it last year (2010) and I was so saddened by that. When I originally wrote this essay (1997), I had not attended in a long while. But I suddenly realized that I couldn't expect my children to understand if I did not teach them. And now there is a generation of grandchildren who also need to understand the reason for Memorial Day. In 1997 (and every year through 2009), as we walked down the street toward the American Legion and saw the men gathering and the police escort and blockade, and joined our neighbors and friends on the square, that old familiar feeling came back to me. And I felt the knot form in my throat. I was afraid to speak because my voice might break. I felt the tears stinging my eyes. My heart filled with pride because I am an American and that is something to be proud of. In 1997, I held the hands of my two youngest daughters and hugged them to me, grateful that we could congregate there freely and without fear. Now, I hug my grandchildren with the same gratitude. Please support the ceremonies in your own community this Memorial Day 2011. Maybe you feel like it's an inconvenience to you. But the impact on you might be just what you need right now. And your inconvenience can't compare to the inconvenience of those-and their families-who gave their lives-and still do-and sacrificed their futures with their loved ones so that you could be with yours.
Peace be with you.
CATHY THOMAS BROWNFIELD, Lisbon
Local residents thankful for help in finding dog
To the editor: Thank you to the entire Salem community for its diligent effort in finding Sofie, our beloved dog. Many of our close friends and family spent tireless hours combing the streets and woods in search of her but there were many who are not even known to us who watched for her daily and spent their time as well. The effort was so intense that Sofie became a household word in a day or two after her disappearance on May 11. After many sightings and phone calls of encouragement she was spotted by a loving and caring human being and we were able to bring her home to safety on May 24. To all who assisted in anyway way, a huge thank you. You are all a valuable and integral part of our community and you have proven that we can work together to bring about good. A special note of thanks to the Columbiana County Humane Society, Alchemy Acres, Sue Davidson, the Columbiana County Dog Warden, Yard Bark, and the neighborhood postmen for their constant vigilance and communication in attempting to bring Sofie safely back to us.
MICHAEL and GALE PRASCO, Salem
Economy's shape, outlook leaving a very bad feeling
To the editor: The shape of the economy and the outlook of it leaves a very bad feeling in your stomach! I wanted to speak up about something that has made my family and I closer and a bit happier. We participate each year in the Ohio State Fair. Participating as a family in the Ohio State Fair in these economic times makes great sense and it's fun! Participating in the fair carries many adjectives; fun, exciting to compete; educational when you learn a new skill or hone an old one; economical, especially when you compete it has reduced pricing for fair admission and parking; rewarding when you or a family member wins; and prideful which doesn't just fall under the winning category but also prideful knowing you've participated in an Ohio and American tradition that's been going on for nearly 200 years! My family and I have been competing at the fair for 23 years. I only have praise for how it has given my family another avenue for being together. Go to the website at www.ohiostatefair.com and click on the "Competition" link and the "Creative Arts" link. You will find something there for everyone! The important point is that the dead line to register is June 20th. The deadline is to enter the paperwork. The drop off for entries is the middle of July. So there is plenty of time to enter an item and create it between now and the middle of July for judging. What the fair doesn't have is a reason not to participate! I am just a competitor that wants to spread the word about a family fun event that is reasonably priced. There are perks too. Most have prize money! You can purchase reduced rate admissions and if you purchase a parking pass you park on the fair grounds. So no exhaustive walk back to you car at the end of the day. Start your new family tradition today.
MICHAEL C. MOSCATO, Columbus
Why did we get to using torture in the first place?
To the editor: The argument over enhanced interrogation/torture is better to be explained as why we got to that point of using such methods in the first place. Our elected officials should have shown prudence in maintaining national security instead of being shrewd in dismantling it. This shrewd argument over immigration/border security demanding prudence will recreate that same threshold to extract information from someone. When a string of detainees, each being Muslim disguised as Mexicans, sets off radiation detectors it will happen. The President says America can "absorb" another day like 9/11. Really?