Some Special Days In May

It’s a very old and over worked cliché – you know, the one about how time keeps flying by. I would guess everybody has said it at one time or another.

Only the very young little kids, awaiting something great like Christmas morning, or summer vacation to begin, measure time as if it were at a turtle’s pace.

My elders always advised me not to rush things. “You’re going to come to a time in life when you’d like things to last a little longer.” And man, were they correct with that assumption. Like everyone else I know, we all find ourselves commenting on how the pace keeps picking up as we grow older.

But, like children, when we’re waiting for something good to occur it still takes an eternity, like when I found myself waiting for my army tour of duty to come to an end. I even prayed for the days to move a little faster. Like many of my buddies I had built my feelings for family and country to an unrealistic height, not that my feelings were a bad thing. It was more like what a young man of twenty years old would do. It’s what we did. We’d all talk about home, sharing pictures and stories. The family I refer to has long since gone. But my country not only remains – rather it has managed to surpass my boyhood expectancies.

Being able to look back at things the way they were can be a positive, when you’re attempting to evaluate a current ideological crisis.

When I say evaluate a crisis, please don’t get the idea I’m one of those people dedicated to solving our country’s – or the world’s problems. I am, however, like many Americans worried about the present circumstances we all live with. You know what I mean; the cost of things, the taxes we pay, and of course the work we do, and whether or not there will be enough of it to take care of my family, and in my case, support the needs of the many colleagues in our employ.

When I decided to write a blog, after a more than strenuous behest of some folks who I am closely involved with, I did so with the understanding it would be as if I was sharing some thoughts on paper, as if it was a personal thing; that under no circumstance would I be telling people what I thought they should be doing with their lives. I certainly will not offer advice about who to vote for. By the same token, I will not hesitate to share my honest feelings about my love affair for The United States Of America.

“What brighter light could burn, then that which has been nurtured by those who have understood and appreciated the gifts that endow any and all, who may venture within the boundaries of this country’s great heart.”
– HK – 12/01

It’s hard to break the habits you grow up with. The practices of a mom and dad have a way of staying with a guy for a lifetime. The years may go by, and the environment appears a little newer and a little shinier. But somehow, my favorite flag colors have remained red, white, and blue. The patriotic holidays we celebrate during the month of May, were the very same events my mom and dad made sure our family all took part in.

Most Jewish families of my era were in one way or another touched by World War II. My family was one of them. It was a very natural thing for us all to observe V-E Day.

Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) was on 8 May 1945, the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. (May 8th falls on a Saturday this year.)

Armed Forces Day became significant in our family as more and more members of the clan returned from doing their part. From service in the Second World War and to the present, our unbroken stream of bloodline continues to take part in the official duty of carrying the flag and being a member in a branch of the service. My oldest daughter was recently discharged from the army, all in one piece; thank God!

In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. (This year it’s the 15th.) The day was created in 1949, in order to honor all branches of the service.

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. The United States’ longest running city-sponsored Armed Forces Day Parade is held in Bremerton, WA. In 2009, Bremerton celebrated the 61sth Armed Forces Day Parade.

Seeing the thousands of American Flags designating the graves of fallen servicemen and woman will always remain the most moving emotional experience of my life.

I was age fourteen, when quite by accident I found myself on the grounds of the veterans’ cemetery in West Los Angeles. It was Memorial Day. I honestly can’t recall how or why I was there, or what the weather was like. While I was a typical adolescent, there was nothing typical about that day’s experience. The grave markers were a depiction of my earliest days in Brooklyn, New York. Every immigrant group was represented equally. It was the most dignified assemblage of humanity I had ever experienced. Oddly, for me it was a feeling of life; life that had been sacrificed. The magnitude of the visual remains an overpowering image in my mind’s eye.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May (May 31st in 2010). It commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. (First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War.)

And so I have shared my history of May with you all. Hopefully it will provide a degree of well-being. Each time I think about all the folks before me, who so ardently believed that what we have in this country is worthwhile enough to sacrifice for, I gain strength.

And oh yes, I might as well include you in a little more of my not so private privacy. I love marching music. (Call me a square.) There are mornings, now and then, when I find myself facing a day without enthusiasm. My lack of zeal is almost never over concern about some pain in the ass I might be directing that day; often it is the banality of the commercial script which will get to me. Since I don’t have my friend Max to commiserate with, I’ll listen to a CD of John Philp Sousa’s famous marches as I prepare for the daily onslaught of actors.

It was a personal thing, but marching band music was a mutuality I shared with my friend Max until his time on earth came up on us.

Max and I, at first glance, did not appear to have much in common. He was from a different era; considerably older than me, but yet he displayed a youthful verve for life and especially for his United States of America. Maybe, someday, I’ll be emotionally strong enough to tell you more about Max Stones. For now, all I will say is that Max was an intellectual with a blue-collar mentality; never shying away from physical labor or getting his hands dirty. He came to the United States as a young man, after losing his family prior to the beginning of World War II. Max was my daily companion for a very long period of time.

“There’s just nothing like a parade, when you’re all marching to the same tune!”
– HK

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