Durham County

Memorial Day, observed — Baumgartner Vaughan

Beechwood Cemetery graves decorated with U.S. flags for Memorial Day in 2010.
Beechwood Cemetery graves decorated with U.S. flags for Memorial Day in 2010. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

How many of you have seen a post on social media, mostly Facebook, of someone griping about how “the media won’t show” this or that? It started off in mass email forwards, then Facebook posts, then unfortunately by those in elected office. Misinformation is way older than that, but today it is much more easily proved or disproved. Assuming people are receptive to facts.

I was on one of those email forwards once with at least 50 people, and the sender declared that in Arlington National Cemetery at Christmas, wreaths were placed on soldiers’ graves, but “the media” wouldn’t tell you that. So I decided to do something obnoxious. I hit “reply all.” And I included links to several newspaper and other media stories and images of those wreaths in that cemetery, with a note that the original email was not true.

Some folks seem to glom on to the idea that the press and the citizenry doesn’t respect or revere veterans or those who were killed in war as much as they should. And yet every Memorial Day, in local cemeteries here and across the country, small U.S. flags are planted by the tombstones of our war dead. It happens. It is documented. Here’s a photograph I took of it. There’s no reason to take false umbrage.

What we can take umbrage about, if we’re thinking about our war dead, is whether their families were taken care of after they died in service to the United States of America. Was the funeral paid for? Did the widowed spouse get a flag? Are there college scholarships available for their children? Did they get a letter from the government? Did they get a letter or visit from someone who actually knew them and served with them? Is somone from their family, the women and men with whom they served, the friends they left behind, or the government preserving their legacy? If not them, how about you?

How about me. I’m here right now remembering those women and men who have served in U.S. Armed Forces and died. None of my recent relatives died in war, but several served in war. My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Coming from a military family reminds you to remember Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But just because I remember it doesn’t mean everyone else will. And while I think they should, they don’t have to.

If you are worried there isn’t enough recognition of military service, do it yourself. Fund a scholarship for military children. Support policies, legislation and programs that benefit active duty servicemen and women, veterans and civilians who work for the military. Do your own part instead of complaining about someone else. Use your vote to support — actually support, not just echo rhetoric — military veterans and their families. Honor the sacrifice. Go read the names on the war memorials in downtown Durham, and Vietnam War memorial over on Murray Avenue. Doesn’t have to be on Memorial Day, but that’s how we can observe Memorial Day.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan