By Dan Mullis
We were buying flowers for spring planting when the question of what to buy to put on the graves of family came up. Memories.
Parents and grandparents are in a cemetery that rises up to a high hill. When standing at the top you can see the whole cemetery spread out before you. There are pine trees planted many years ago and the wind blowing through the boughs makes a quiet noise. With the stones and colorful flowers it is beautiful and calming, giving a sense of peace. There are many stones with an American flag beside them, marking where one of our military rests. One is my father.
A paternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried in a small, very rural cemetery that is almost forgotten and weeds are mostly the flowers there. If someone put out flags there he would get one for the Civil War. The same peaceful feeling is there.
More ancestors are in a flat, square and neatly manicured cemetery surrounded by corn and bean fields. It is appropriate as some of them were farmers. As in the other places there lies the peace, quiet and beauty and the flags of those who served.
My wife's paternal grandparents are buried in a cemetery in Indiana. Her father was 6 months old when a horse reared up, striking and killing his mother. Life is uncertain.
A maternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother are in another rural old cemetery. He walked with limp from a Minnie ball from the Civil War. He would have a flag.
The wife's grandparents and great-grandparents lie in a cemetery with a rolling landscape that is now surrounded by giant wind turbines replacing the quiet breeze with their monotonous whooshing blades.
As can be seen, cemeteries are like history books strung across our country. Start on the East Coast with the earliest date and follow across to the West, as the dates get newer. They all honor our families and veterans.
When we take the flowers on Memorial Day, we remember all these gone before. We remember those who served our country in a special way because they sacrificed for our freedom and us.
Arlington Cemetery is our first National Cemetery and is special, but there are national cemeteries all across our country honoring those who served. There is one here in Danville, and it is special to the families of those buried here. There are 24 American cemeteries around the world. There are 20 in Europe, one each in Panama, Tunisia, Mexico and the Philippines. Row upon row of white markers in now beautiful places that were ugly when they fought there. Our people have died in many places, and still are. As we each go to that cemetery that is special to us, we remember family and those who served. We want to remember those who are still in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and many small unknown places in Africa where just being an American can get you killed — soldier and civilian.
A new reason to honor those who gave their lives as civilians has come to our country. Oklahoma with its chairs, the trade center's vast square falling waters, remind us that now all are dying. Our latest test of courage and strength is Boston. I don't think we can understand the hatred some have for us or why they think killing innocent people will make a difference. We have been a benevolent nation over the years, giving millions if not billions of dollars in disaster aid, food to starving people, and on and on. We get back hate. We have not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but our people have died trying.
At Gettysburg, a major battle had been fought that was a pivotal point in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln came to the battlefield to dedicate the cemetery for those who died there — his speech has become famous. One thing he said was "We should never forget what they did here." This Memorial Day we need to follow his advice and remember our loved ones and give a special thanks to those who have served our country.
The definition of maudlin is: talkative or tearfully sentimental; exhibiting foolish sentimentally; and ill controlled vapid emotion. If this column is guilty of being maudlin, so be it.
Dan Mullis is a retired instrument maker at the University of Illinois. He resides in Danville.