Friday, May 27, 2011

The Ultimate Sacrifice

On the beginning of this Memorial Day weekend I thought it only fitting to share with you some history.   

Originally known as Decoration Day, it was a day set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves.  The first observance was May 30, 1868.  It was a short speech by General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery and then over 5,000 volunteers decorated the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration inspired many local observances across America with many cities claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.  This claim went unresolved for 100 years when finally in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y. to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Waterloo’s first celebration was on May 5, 1866 and they made it an annual community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.  By the late 1800s, many communities across the country were celebrating Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars.

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May to honor those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.  And today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery very much like the first one, with a simple speech by either the president or the vice-president and then a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Flags are placed at every soldier’s grave, but that is a month long project since there are now over 220,000 soldiers buried in Arlington. 

In 2005, the American Veterans Center created the National Memorial Day Parade which includes 200 entries of military units, hundreds of veterans representing all wars, floats, military bands and 100 HS marching bands, representing all 50 states.  Last year this parade drew over 250,000 spectators to Washington DC.  This year, the Kennedy HS Marching Band will represent Iowa and I have the privilege joining them as their official photographer for the parade and their four days in DC.  The parade is live on the Military Channel, 2 pm on Monday. 

Memorial Day is a rich tradition where all Americans can take pause to pray and to thank our greatest heroes.  Let’s remember to honor those men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  And that is the Bottom of our News on this May 27th, 2011


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mean Moms!

Good morning my fellow Rotarians! I was out of town Mother’s Day week, but I did find a special tribute story for mothers called “Mean Moms” and it totally made me think of my mom…

So it goes like this… At the age of 33, my step mom, married my dad who had five kids. Any woman marrying some guy with five kids is simply amazing to me (or crazy). My dad says it was sympathy. My mom to this day doesn’t recall what she was thinking! Our family of eight kids was a handful and Mom quickly turned into a drill sergeant. We called her ‘mean’ and yet she was not afraid to remind us of how her ‘meanness’ eventually worked to our benefit…

She insisted on knowing where we were at all times. She had to know who our friends were and what we were doing with them. At times she cared enough to be silent so we would discover on our own that some friends were creeps.

I can think of three ‘mean mom’ examples with my siblings…

· She stood over one brother for two hours on a few occasions while he cleaned his room, a job that should have taken 15 minutes.

· She let another brother deal with bad consequences after some stupid actions that almost broke her heart.

· And she said NO to a sister when she insisted on continually hanging out with some loser guy.

In each case Mom was accused of being ‘mean’ and yet in most cases her ‘meanness’ paid off, except for my sister who ended up marrying the guy anyway!

My mom (and my dad) broke Child Labor Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, clean, vacuum, mow our 2 acre lawn, cut weeds, do chores and all sorts of cruel jobs. We swore that she was so mean she would lie awake at night thinking of more stuff for us to do.

Mom always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As teenagers, she had eyes in the back of her head and could read our minds. We thought that was mean and unfair.

Because of my mom’s meanness we missed out on a few things… like shoplifting, vandalizing property or the experience of be arrested. For that we all are grateful.

And today my mom is pretty much the same only now hear meanness is with the next generations, her grand kids. And interestingly enough my siblings and I have all been accused of being ‘mean’ by our kids, just as we did with Mom.

To my mom I say ‘keep it up!’ You are the greatest ‘mean mom!’ And maybe you are thinking your mom was mean like mine? I think the world could actually use a few more mean moms. We salute our moms with a belated “Happy Mother’s Day!” and that is our Bottom of the News on this May 20th, 2011! ###