|Wall of the Missing - ABMC Cemetery, Cambridge, England|
The pace of life in the 21st century is governed by the technology explosion, but society is not as readily adaptable to change as technology is. The way people lived and coped with life 50 years ago was far different than it is today. That's not because the problems faced then were any more, nor less, pressing. It seems that the prevailing attitudes, about many things, were different and that there was indeed a prevailing attitude. Not least of the many changes has been our national unity of belief. During WWII, Americans shared a common purpose and resolve. Today, the country is split almost equally between two diametrically opposed views. The old jokes about gridlock in Washington are no longer funny. Gridlock has become a way of life and more people than ever in America lack faith in almost every facet of their existence. For most, it is enough to simply make it through the day. One of the real tragedies of this New Depression is that we have abandoned the traditions and social institutions that made America great. Government is rarely viewed these days as a friend, much less a protector. Industry and labor are seldom rewarded and entitlement has replaced ambition.
In our post "sixties" zeal for political correctness, we have gradually whittled away the foundations upon which this nation was built. One of the many examples lies before us today. As we prepare to celebrate "Memorial Day" it would be hard to find any unity of view on what the day even represents. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs well knows that "Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces." Not veterans who served in war, or peace, but those who "died" serving. This day of remembrance originated after the Civil War, when 600,000 died, and was called "Decoration Day" until 1882. For more than a century, Americans made visits on this day to decorate the graves of those fallen warriors, with flags and flowers, to single them out for their gallantry and devotion. All other veterans are honored on "Veterans Day" in November.
This day of remembrance was initially established as May 30th, but Congress changed the date in 1971 to the last Monday in May in order to create an annual three-day weekend. The Veterans of Foreign Wars still oppose this change, arguing that it undermines the very meaning of the day and pointing to the consequent nonchalance of the public about observing traditional ceremonies. It would be hard to argue that Memorial Day means the same thing to Americans today as it did in 1945. The three-day weekend is now the most anticipated aspect and is punctuated by auto racing and golf events in addition to a plethora of holiday shopper sales—more like May Day. The visitation of graves and placing of flowers is still fairly common, but even that has become a generic family activity for many—associated with remembrance of all who have died, not just those who died in service to their country. While the remembrance of ancestors is an important family activity, the fact that it merges so indiscriminately with Memorial Day is another reason for the vanishing significance of this particular day.
On this Memorial Day, I personally will be honored to pay my respects to those fallen members of the 416th Bomb Group who, like Bill Cramsie, died between 1943 and 1945 in service to our country. They were among the best of America's youth and they left us a tremendous gift. We should take this occasion to rededicate ourselves to making a difference in the future of this country so that it will continue to be "my land and your land" and will lead the free world by example as those before us so admirably did. It is our duty and our privilege to preserve, protect and nurture their legacy.