Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

It is Memorial Day 2014.

The day started early for me given it was a holiday.  I was up at  6:30 as I was going on a 9 am bike ride with my friend Ken Hachikian.  I made some oatmeal, fired up the coffee pot, and turned on the TV.  I was interested in seeing what TCM was showing as part of its traditional Memorial Day war themed movie offerings.  I was in luck, one of my favorite movies of this genre was just starting:  Sergeant York.  

This black and white gem, starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, and others, chronicles the life of Alvin C. York a World War I hero who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The film takes us back to a United States that is no more in a way that really shows how this country has changed in one hundred years.  It was an inspiring movie made in 1941 and part of that class of war films made to buoy the spirit and patriotism of the people in the early days of World War II.  It buoys my spirit and appreciation of all that is good in America whenever I watch it. 

Alvin York was born in Pall Mall, TN on December 13, 1887.  Even as the US was entering into World War I, the part of the US where there was no electricity and people lived very simple lives. He was a rough and tumble drinking man and brawler that found a deeper Christianity that preached peace and pacifism while avoiding the dogma debated that divided so many branches of Christianity.  The Alvin York story is how he struggled with his beliefs while wanting to do right by
Alvin C. York
his country and comrades in arms. 

One of the most powerful lines in the movie was after York left the humble home of his mother to go to war.  His sister asked the mother, "Ma, what're they fighin' for over there?."  The mother responded, "Don't rightly know, Child. Don't rightly know."

It is a great movie, a wonderful bit of Americana, and, to me, the perfect movie to watch over breakfast on Memorial Day.

In the middle of my bike ride, I joined my wife and her mother at the Memorial Day commemoration on the green of the City of Lake Forest where we live.  It was hosted the local American Legion Post.  They Lake Forest High School band performed admirably with renditions of Sousa marches and a medley of all the Armed Forces anthems and hymns. 

Major Andrew Carl of the U.S. Marine Corps gave the keynote address.  He related the story The Scythe Tree.  
In 1861, according to the plaque at the foot of the tree, "James Wyman Johnson came from the fields one morning, hung his scythe in the crotch of a small cottonwood tree, and said 'Leave the scythe in the tree until I return'." Then Johnson went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War., 'Leave the scythe in the tree until I return'." Then Johnson went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War. ~ The Scythe Tree.
Johnson never returned.  He was wounded, captured, passed away, and buried in an unmarked grave.  His family was informed of his passing, but continued to hope he would return.  They left the scythe in the tree.  It has been there ever since.  The tree has grown around it to the point where just a portion of the blade is still showing.  It is a tourist attraction in Waterloo, NY... a town that claims to have founded Memorial Day.

I also saw a post on Facebook from my friend Ara Topouzian. 
Odd....Google didn't do a Memorial commemoration on their homepage. They seem to commemorate most holidays and other obscure birthdays..why did they opt not to do anything?
Here is a portion of the comments on this discussion:
Ara:  So I googled it... It seems they haven't commemorates with a Google doodle in 6 yrs. they are quoted as to saying most of their graphics are lighthearted in nature and they don't want to be disrespectful so they struggle with a design. 

Ara:   How about an American flag? 

Ara:  I am hoping Mark Gavoor will blog about this.

Joni:  The home page has a small American flag with a yellow ribbon. Seems appropriate to me. 

Ara:  Joni...that's new since I first put this post. Interesting. I agree that's it's appropriate
Well, there is almost no need for me to blog about this.  Apparently, Ara, single-handedly influenced Google.  That doesn't happen everyday.  Bravo Ara.

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