As we come to the last full week in May, it has been for a number of decades the almost universal policy of citizens of the United States to stop and pay tribute primarily to the war veterans who were full casualties in the various wars which our republic has found itself embroiled in. In earlier years, the holiday we call Memorial Day was always on May 30, and so could occur on any day of the week. Some time ago, the Congress of the time saw fit, as with some other holidays, to change the official observance to the last Monday of the month, regardless of the date.
This year however, the last Monday happens to be also the date of the original observance. To those of us old enough to have reached adulthood while it was still that date, it seems much more meaningful.
It has been the practice each year, for a number of years, for the operators of Floral Haven Cemetery to have the Avenue of Flags for the whole weekend. If memory serves me correct, there were over 3,400 in 2015, with more to be added this year. The automobile pathways through the cemetery are lined on both sides with flagpoles, each with its own U.S. flag. There is a special section for the new ones added since the last year. Each pole has a plate with the name of a veteran, now deceased, attached. In many cases, the flag attached is the actual one that was laid on the casket of the veteran. In my opinion, it is well worth the time to visit and see the display.
In 2015, about a month or so earlier, a widowed member of my Church, Kirk of the Hills, called to say that she was going through a long-shut chest and found a folded flag and didn’t know what to do with it. On being asked if it was in a triangle, I informed her that it probably was the flag on the casket of her late veteran husband, gone four or five decades, and I suggested that she donate it to Floral Haven for a pole with his name on it. After discussing with her remaining son and thinking about it, she agreed and was assisted in making the arrangements. On seeing it on the pole and the rest of the avenue, she admitted to being very pleased and deeply touched.
Very recently, we have been informed that PRESBO is planning to visit Hiroshima, Japan, where the first atomic bomb was used in warfare some 70 years ago. Knowing his record for traveling around the world, bowing and scraping to foreign government officials and issuing apologies for supposed mis-deeds on the part of the United States and it representatives, it is fairly well expected that the same is the purpose of this trip. It is expected that he will profusely apologize for our bombers dropping the bomb and make statements that it was most inhumane.
With such actions and words he will, as in the past instances, demean himself in the eyes of other national officials and highly offend those of us remaining who still believe the United States is the greatest and most civil acting nation the world has ever known.
It is also, in my opinion, a hard slap in the face of all veterans and survivors. We were in an all-out war against a brutal military which had for more than ten years been invading surrounding nations, and when victorious, committed the worst atrocities on the remaining populations, as well as the defeated military.
Unfortunately, it took another such bomb, on Nagasaki, to convince the Japanese officials that they could not win, which, happily, ended the war (while I was still in basic training). The officials had convinced their population that they must fight to the death, rather than surrender, and that our military would act even worse than their own had been doing. Of course, that was not true, which facts have born out. It has been estimated that the 80,000 lives taken then served to prevent the loss of 1.5 million allied military and as much as 5 million defender military and civilian population if it had been necessary to invade.
As an Army Air Forces private, I have been continuously thankful to President Harry S. Truman, D-Missouri, for ordering the action taken. It was a courageous decision, not lightly made.