A Day to Remember

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18, New Revised Standard Version).

While my posts are almost always of a spiritual nature, this post is not. The scripture above is about as spiritual as this one gets. This post is about Memorial Day. I will return to my regular writing tomorrow.

It is 0800 on the Friday and you are walking down the the row of piers on any Navy Base or even civilian ports where Navy ships are tied up. Looking closely, at the ship, you see sailors gathered around the flag pole forward, where the Union Jack (the blue field and stars from the flag) and up on top of the mast, along with sailors gathered at points in between. You stop and watch what they are doing.

As you watch the sailors rig lines running from the the bow of the ship, to the top of the mast, back to the fantail. Next they bring out a large amounts of maritime flags at both the bow and fantail (stern).

You see a sailor coming toward you on the pier so you stop him and asked, “What are those guys doing?”

“Oh, they are getting the ship ready for full-dress. All the ships are getting ready.”

They all have the line from the bow to the top of the mast and back to the fantail. “So why are they doing that?”

“Monday?” You still have a puzzled look. The sailor looks at you like you’ve lost your mind. Then it dawns on you. “Memorial Day?”

He nods his head and says, “Every Navy ship that is in port on two holidays each year Memorial Day, and July 4th. Monday morning the lines will have maritime flags from the bow, to the top of the mast and back down to the stern. Sometimes the President or Secretary of the Navy or some such person might order full dress on a special day. If a ship is in a foreign port and they have a special day full dress can happen then too.”

“Do the flags go up in a particular order Monday?” I asked.

“Yes they do. There is a specific order in which the flags will fly. And, before you ask, I don’t know the order. I hear that most of those doing the work don’t remember either. They have to pull out a signal book to find them.”

“If you want to see it, they will pull the flags up on Monday morning at 0800, during Colors. It is pretty impressive.”

“How long with the flags stay up?”

“They will come down Monday at Sunset. The rigging will come down on Tuesday.”

“And you say all ships will do this on Monday?”

“If they are in port, all commissioned ships will full dress on Monday.

“The only ships in port that I know of,” he said, “that don’t full-dress are ships in overhaul, in the shipyards and dry dock. Even ‘Old Ironsides.’ the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest ship in the Navy, an old wooden sailing ship, goes to full dress for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.”

“I would love to see that. Well, you would have to go to Boston to see that ship.”

“Too bad, ” I said. “Is there anything else that happens on base for Memorial Day?” I asked.

“At morning colors all ships will fly the ensign (the flag) at half staff. At 1200, there is a special 21 gun salute. Beginning at the top of the hour, precisely 12:00 noon, a gun on base will fire. Then one gun per minute for the next 20 minutes will fire. At 1220 the salute ends and the ensign is closed up to the top of the staff. Everything stops on the base when the salute starts. All uniformed personnel outside, stop, salute the closest flag and hold the salute until the 21 Gun Salute ends.”

“I bet everyone on base tries to get inside by then. Twenty minutes is a long time to hold a salute.”

“Some do but Memorial Day isn’t about us.”

“It isn’t about the military? Huh. Well, I bet the veterans appreciate it. They sacrificed part of their lives.”

“They may appreciate it but it isn’t because of their sacrifice. Memorial Day is about Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We who are on active duty have our day. Our day was a couple of weeks ago, on May 16th, Armed Forces Day. As for the veterans, they have a day too, November 11, Veterans Day. Memorial Day is the day we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Compared to what they gave up, holding a long salute is nothing.”

“Well, you are right about that. I feel a little silly. I should have known that, it is, after all, in the name. I didn’t know about Armed Forces Day but I knew Veteran’s Day.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over that. You would be surprised how many people don’t know as much as you.”

“I need to do some studying.”

“Don’t we all. Well sir, I need to get going.”

“Will you be around on Monday?”

“I will be. I have duty on Monday.”

“Well, perhaps I will see you then. Thank you for your time and for what you taught me today.”

“I may see you then. I hope you have a great weekend.”

“You too sailor.”

Be Blessed this Memorial Day.

Seeking the Genuine,

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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