Respect meaning of Memorial Day

To the Editor:

As an 86-year-old, now disabled, veteran of the Korean War, I can recall a time not so long ago when Memorial Day was a day of parades in practically every community in America as citizens remembered the men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for their nation.

It was a day to visit local cemeteries, honor those still living who face daily challenges of recovering from combat injuries, and programs conducted in all our public schools.

Now, there are fewer parades, very few Memorial Day programs in our public schools, visits to our cemeteries are usually only made by those who lost a loved one defending our nation, and the day has become more of a day for family barbecues and family gatherings.

Sadly, in today’s environment we face a tsunami of ads by retail stores and car dealers who want us to believe they are honoring our heroes who have defended our nation for over 200 years by having product sales and lining their pockets with profits. What a wonderful and thoughtful way to honor our men and women on Memorial Day!

I still have vivid memories of being raised in my little red, white and blue town of Wilton, where our teachers instilled in all of us respect for our community, state and nation, Memorial Day was a day our community honored the men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice for their nation with a parade and programs of remembrance. I can recall a Memorial Day 75 years ago when I was selected to lead our school in the Memorial Day parade dressed as Uncle Sam, and I have indelibly etched in my mind carrying a heavy Springfield rifle for a World War I veteran sweating profusely in his woolen uniform, puttees and soup bowl helmet as we climbed the steep hill to our two local cemeteries where ceremonies were conducted.

When we reached the veterans plot and stood by the flagpole listening to our day’s speaker remember the sacrifices of our men and women, the World War I veteran looked down at me with tear-filled eyes telling me: “Son, for the rest of your life, don’t ever forget the men and women who gave their lives for our nation, and always remember them on Memorial Day.” His words motivated me to spend every Memorial Day since giving the keynote address at over 50 New Hampshire towns and cities, visiting the nearest V.A. hospital to chat with veterans abandoned by their families, and my wife, Shirley, and I have always brought items such as T-shirts, white stockings, toothpaste, combs, soap and books for those whose sacrifices for their nation have been forgotten.

In my little town of Wilton, New Hampshire, Memorial Day was a day always clearly recognized as a day to honor the sacrifices of our men and women who paid the supreme sacrifices ever since 1776. On many occasions, as a resident of Wilton I used to visit the monuments located in the center of town just to read the names of all those who willingly left our community to defend their nation.

What a shame Memorial Day has now become a victim of those who advocate memory loss for their contributions and merchants who use the day to line their pockets. You can bet your last Tootsie Roll that this old veteran will never, ever, spend a dime of his money in any of these business establishments.

What a sad commentary this has to be on Memorial Day 2017. It makes this old veteran’s eyes get tear-filled to even think I have seen this happen in my lifetime!

Francis Gros Louis

Leesburg, Va.