As a kid growing up in Texas, I think I was rather enamored with Memorial Day. We called it Decoration Day in those days, a day set aside to honor the Civil War dead. In later years it was changed to the present, Memorial Day, and it honors the war dead from all wars.
San Antonio, where I was raised, was—and still is—an army town, much the same way that San Diego is a navy town.
The army contingent was anchored there by Fort Sam Houston, with its wooden, imposing buildings and barracks, relics of World War I but still in operating condition. On Decoration Day that base was the principal unit leading the pomp and pageantry.
I have reported on this day in the past. I think that any unit in the city, from Boy Scouts to past-war veterans were represented in the massive parade that attracted the citizenry from miles around. The Army, of course was the big attraction. For the parade they would roll out those huge artillery pieces and the massive tanks that would elicit those ooohs and ahs from those riveted in place at the curbs.
I was part of an ROTC unit at my high school. There were many such groups in the city. All would dress in their military splendor and join the marching units drawing the applause of the crowds. Drawing the most applause, however, were those veterans of past wars, who could still don their military togs and march or ride in open vehicles, once more taking a bow for deeds done in the past.
The most enjoyable part of the pageantry, at least in my estimation, was the marching bands. Each Army unit boasted its own such group. It seemed as if they were trying to outdo one another. The standards were, of course, the John Phillip Sousas of the day, crowned naturally with “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I don’t think the Marine hymn made it back then.
The high schools also had bands but they were of lesser quality. Most of the schools had only mastered the school’s fight song so it seemed like they were all applauding a touchdown, but, at least, they were making music and marching in step.
Ah, but that was in San Antonio many years ago. We fast forward to the South Bay and find that the tradition of Memorial Day is still alive and very much active in many quarters. Some years ago Glen Abbey, the memorial park and cemetery in Bonita, teamed up with the Branch 61 unit of the Fleet Reserve Association based in Chula Vista and gave the community a Memorial Day observance that is extremely meaningful.
This will be reprised this year. Glen Abbey officials, Sean Bulthuis and Ronda Thompson tell me that on Monday, May 28, at 11 a.m. on the grounds in the vicinity of the Chapel of the Roses the service will bring community leaders and veteran’s organization together to honor those who made the extreme sacrifice for their country. The ceremony will feature the playing of the National Anthem, taps, and a fly over, along with addresses by local notables.
Much of the preparation and leg work for the event is credited to the Fleet Reserve. Headed by Gus Hermes, the unit will set up the seating and other amenities for this event. The general public is invited. Past experience tell us that we must come early. Seating is limited.
Memorial Day, in addition to honoring the war dead is also known for something else. It is the day that heralds the summer season. In most parts of the country the citizens know that there will be no more days of frost or snow or any of those wintry-type days. It should be the same here in the South Bay. We, however have to contend with something known as June gloom. Let us hope that the festivities of that day will somehow discourage the normal course of climate and we will be blessed with sunshine. I, for one, would be thankful for that.