I’m writing this on Memorial Day, 2017. The papers are sadly filled with ads featuring sales on this sanctified day. For many, It is a beach day, franks, hamburgers, family cookouts. But to me it is a day for celebrating our liberties. And for mourning, more than just a bit, for those whose lives were given to gift us our freedom to celebrate. But my memories go far back to my childhood.
As a seven year old kid, I sat in the auditorium of Brooklyn’s PS 97 and listened to our principal, Mrs. Rauch tell us that things would be alright. We would be safe. It was Monday, December 8th, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We stood, pledged allegiance to the flag and all sang the National Anthem. She was right. We won the war, defeated our enemies and went on with our lives.
But my neighbor, Joey Pinto, whose family owned the Thunderbolt in Coney Island was killed in the Pacific. Each day, leaving my house I’d see the gold star flag hanging in his family’s window. I would never talk to him again, watch my older hero, play stickball in the gutter, nor have him pat my head when he placed me in the front seat of the roller-coaster whenever he spotted me walking down Stillwell Avenue to the beach. He gave his life for me and you.
Yet, today, I see pictures of young men and women burning our flag, smashing windows of businesses and upturning cars in order to tear down what millions of our military paid for with their lives, limbs and sanity. We are a screwed up nation now. We have an element focused on destroying our freedoms, our Constitution and our way of life. Our nation no longer has the unanimity we had back during WWII.
So, this Memorial Day, I sat with many friends in the outdoors. As a proud veteran I saluted as a high school military honor guard paraded the colors, sang our nation’s National Anthem and thought of Mrs. Rauch and said a silent kaddish for Joey Pinto as I do every Memorial Day. This was a true holy day.
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