Memorial Day – A time to pause

This is my Uncle 2nd Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr. who was killed on Saipan by the Japanese on July 6, 1944. He is the one standing.

Georgia National Cemetery is the second national cemetery in Georgia and the 123rd in the national cemetery system. A private citizen donated the 775-acre site to the National Cemetery Administration in 2001. At maximum capacity, 330 acres of the site will be developed for burials; the remainder of the site is too steep to be used for interments. Historically, the site was used for logging purposes and as a hunting ground for local residents.

Today I went to the Georgia National Cemetery located in Canton, GA. Due to the rain this week none of the American flags have been put by the gravestones.

This is how the cemetery will look once the flags are put in for the celebrating of Memorial Day.

A good explanation of the differences of Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day just before the Memorial Day holiday weekend (Kevin, PAO)

This is a great weekend to visit our national cemeteries around the country.

ON THE BEACH: On June 15, 1944, during the Pacific Campaign of World War II (1939-45), U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of the strategically significant Japanese island of Saipan, with a goal of gaining a crucial air base from which the U.S. could launch its new long-range B-29 bombers directly at Japan’s home islands. The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the sand dunes on Saipan beach, during the World War II invasion of Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still listed as missing in action. [Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns]

Our family cannot go the cemetery and find my Uncle James Stanley Leary’s grave. While we know he was killed in Saipan the fighting was so fierce that two other marines died trying to rescue his body. His body was never recovered.

Here is a guide to the emblems you will see on the headstones in the national cemeteries.

The headstone with flowers has the Star of David which is the emblem for Jews. The Cross is for Christians.

What I suggest one does is pay attention to all the different faiths that have sacrificed for our freedom.

What I found interesting is that we had Muslims who served in WWII as Frankie Leroy Freeman.

There are even variety of Christian markers.

Milton Robert Singer’s marker is for Community of Christ.
Peter E. Arnold is Presbyterian USA
A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited.

A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier was killed.

So what happens to the coins after Memorial Day? It is collected and the money is used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, or the care for indigent soldiers.

Supposedly the tradition became popular here in the United States during the Vietnam war. It is believed it was a way to show respect without getting into an uncomfortable political discussion about a war that was very controversial.

In general, however, this tradition can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire. It was a way to give a buddy some spending money for the hereafter.

It may surprise the casual visitor at Arlington National Cemetery to see a rubber duck on a headstone or an old football helmet lying in the manicured grass of a fallen soldier’s grave.

But this new generation of warriors are frequently remembered with mementos like cans of beer, teddy bears and even tiny bottles of hot sauce. The message in the mementos is unknown but likely very personal.

I saw service members remembering their friends. This marine left this for his friend.

I had waited till he had paid his respects to get the close-up of the Symbol of the Corps The Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem has been part of the uniform since 1868 and became the official emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955.

The eagle with spread wings represents our proud nation. The globe points to worldwide presence. The anchor stands for naval tradition. Together, they represent a dedication to service in the air, on land and at sea.

Here is a suggestion for you. Take a photo and post it to social media with your reasons that this moved you to pause and share.

Honor those who sacrificed for our freedom through a photo and a short caption.