It is time to observe another Memorial Day, but in my memory it will always be Decoration Day, and I will once again be a child in the little village of Hingham, Wis., walking behind an out-of-tune hometown band, up the hill to the local cemetery where I will place a tiny flag and a bouquet of lilacs and tulips on the grave of a long dead soldier. And my heart will be in Belgium where the broken body of my brother lies beneath a white cross, along with thousands of his comrades.
Starting in 1886, Memorial Day was observed on May 30 and for most of that time was known as Decoration Day, a day in which to place flowers on the graves of those who died in defense of their country. But starting in 1971, Congress decided that one quiet day of commemoration should become a three-day holiday, and permitted the date to be changed to a Monday.
Failure to honor those who died for us is the ultimate shame. Last year 16 officials and honored guests participated in a meaningful and memorable program presented by the Beverly Hills Legion, but no more than 12 people attended. Americans need holidays to celebrate life, but they also need time to remember those whose ultimate sacrifice made it possible, and they especially need to know one from the other.
AUDREY M. OGLAN