Memorial Day

[Ed – This is a bit of a reprise from 2015, but I like it and it’s my blog… I’m taking some pennies with me this time. -TG]

On the very far north edge of my neighborhood (Capitol Hill in Seattle), on the other side of Volunteer Park, there is the famous Lake View Cemetery where one can find the graves of martial arts film star Bruce Lee and his son Jason. But few people go just a bit further where there is a small specialized cemetery for veterans of the Civil War, The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery. There are about 500 graves there, including at least one Medal of Honor recipient and some veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops, which according to the signage were Union regiments made up of African American soldiers and white officers. (A-hem.)

I would wager that most Seattleites don’t know about this place, given the Pacific Northwest being as far removed from the Civil War as one can get in the lower 48; Washington was not a state until 1889, and yet here in a tiny corner of modern, major US city is a reminder that the Civil War was here, too.

I mention this because Memorial Day was initially started following the Civil War, wherein people visited the graves and cleaned them up out of respect for the fallen, and over time it has become generalized and confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is supposed to be about remembering our war dead; Veterans Day is giving thanks to our (living) Vets. It’s a fine distinction and one we should not forget.

For most of us Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, outdoor parties, and grilled food; I’m told it marks when society ladies again can wear white shoes in public, though I don’t understand these rules well. Retailers use Memorial Day to discount slow moving items (almost always relating to summer), which seems like a strange way to remember those who died while wearing a uniform.

But I digress, and so back to The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery we go. For a long while the cemetery languished and creeping vegetation obscured the graves, and allegedly at some point it was proposed to be used as an off-leash dog park; that final insult is what got the cemetery cleaned up.

The Veterans Administration has replaced missing headstones that disappeared during the long, untended years and others that have worn away after 100+ years of exposure in Seattle’s legendary rain.

As in years past, my plans for Memorial Day includes a visit to The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, to spend a quiet moment saying thank you. By the calendar that war seems so long ago, but by our culture, the battles are on-going.

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6 Responses to Memorial Day

  1. MDavis says:

    The battles continue, reprised daily.
    I consider this post to be completely appropriate. It is also appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jimmy T says:

    My father and father-in-law fought the Nazis during WWII. My father-in-law (Verne) was a foot soldier with Patton’s army and experienced and survived hand to hand combat with Hitler’s army, but was seriously injured and spent months in a field hospital. My father was on a submarine in the North Atlantic. The submarine service had the highest casualty rate in the war, but somehow he survived, which is the reason I’m here today. These combat veterans were serious men, who didn’t suffer fools lightly. Both them were Republicans, but the garish clowns of the present day GQP would have repelled both of them…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. mr perfect says:

    Thank you for this tidbit TenGrain. Our oldest daughter moved to Seattle 6 years ago and lived in Magnolia near the Ballard locks for four years. She’s now married and her and my son in law have moved to north central Washington state because they can work remotely and afford to own property there. While she was living in Magnolia, we would visit frequently and do the tourism thing around the area. Green Lake, Fremont, A Soundgarden by Magnuson Park, Union Bay Natural Area, Gasworks Park, Seattle Japanese Garden and UW Botanical Gardens, we’ve visited them all. We haven’t been to Seattle since Labour Day 2019 but when we do visit again, we would love to visit this historic cemetery. I’ve already looked it up on maps.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. genelms says:

    Thank you Tengrain for this (re)post. I don’t think we can be reminded enough that most of our holidays have much deeper meaning than leisure activities and retail sales. I lived in Seattle for over 20 years, 4 on Capitol Hill and I never knew that this cemetery existed. I know now and I won’t miss visiting this important monument to people who tried to set thing right.

    Like

  5. annieasksyou says:

    A yearly reprise is certainly in order. Nicely done, TG.

    Like

  6. schmice3 says:

    Thank you.

    Like

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