The Real Reason for Memorial Day

Memorial Day — or Decoration Day, as it was originally called — began shortly after the end of the Civil War. It was a way to pay respect to those who had lost their lives in that bloody conflict. Eventually, it grew as a way to honor those who died in any of our nation’s wars.

Like many of you probably do, I head out to local cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend. Ok, I go much more often than just that weekend, but the trip to cemeteries is a key event in my Memorial Day activities.

Gerald Ridenour was from my mom’s hometown. He enlisted in the Army and served in the Army Air Forces. He died in the line of duty in October 1943. His body was brought back to Perry County, Ohio for burial.

Mom was still in school at the time. She remembers that the entire school — and almost all of the town — went to his funeral. “I remember that he was wearing his uniform,” she told me on our visit to Highland Cemetery yesterday.

“At the end of the service at the cemetery, there was someone at the bottom of the hill playing Taps. None of us could see him. It’s something that I’ll never forget for as long as I live.”

Gerald V. Ridenour tombstone, Highland Cemetery, Glenford, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 23 May 2015.

Gerald V. Ridenour tombstone, Highland Cemetery, Glenford, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 23 May 2015.

Gerald Ridenour isn’t related to me, but his funeral is such a vivid memory for my mom, that he almost feels like it.

Sometime this weekend, please pause for a moment and consider the real reason we observe Memorial Day.

One thought on “The Real Reason for Memorial Day

  1. Colleen

    I grew up in a small rural town. Our Memorial Day parade ended at the town’s cemetery where wreaths were placed, speeches & prayers said. And then that Taps played by members of the school band, echoed, as you wrote, by a unseen trumpet. Standing there in my Girl Scout uniform I would try to not cry.

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