Saturday, May 26, 2018 - by Linda Mines, Hamilton County Historian
Commemorating Memorial Day’s long weekend often allows families to gather for good food, fun and games and reminiscing about yesterdays. But, with a bit of planning, families can enjoy each of these special moments while simultaneously creating memories that focus on the true meaning of the weekend.
So how can you guide your family to new memories while paying homage to our fallen members of the armed forces? It’s as simple as 1-2-3.
Bring out those old photos.
Since families are more mobile today and are often scattered across a region, there are less opportunities for younger family members to hear stories about their ancestors, including the memories of the older living family. Did you know that your grandfather is a U. S. Army veteran who served in the Delta region of South Vietnam? Or that your great-aunt earned her pilot’s license in 1942 and trained young pilots during World War II? Looking at old photos often trigger stories that personify your family’s history and character values. Use your phone to record those stories to share with other family members who could not join you for the weekend. Some of the best recordings can be found when you get a group of older family members together and simply toss out a general question such as ‘Did you have family and friends who were drafted or volunteered for Vietnam?’. Let the conversation flow. When the conversation begins to wane, ask another question. ‘Did we have family who served during The Great War? Do you remember hearing stories when you were younger about those family members?’ You’ll leave the weekend gathering with a new appreciation of your family’s role in preserving our liberty and freedoms.
2. Visit a family cemetery or the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Moving from the stories of your family’s service to our Republic to standing in front of that family member’s tombstone creates a profound connection for most people. Take a small U. S. flag with you to mark the grave. Place the flag one foot from the center of the stone. Read the name aloud and the dates of birth and death. Historians believe that as long as someone speaks a name aloud that person is never truly forgotten. Spending time in a family cemetery is a perfect way to become interested in your family’s genealogy.
3. Create a simple family tree, using names, known dates and photos. Tracing your ancestry is a low-cost hobby and completing the puzzle not only sharpens your research skills and increases your family knowledge, but conversations with family members strengthen the ties that bind your family. Genealogical research is a wonderful shared hobby for grandparents and grandchildren, from organizing old photos to visiting former homes and important historical sites. Imagine how much more interesting a trip to Gettysburg on a Memorial Day would be if you know your great-great-grandfather served during that turning point battle.
So, fire up that grill and make that fresh lemonade. Hoist your U. S. flag and share your love of God, Home and Family with your neighborhood. Chat about the weather, the amazing ribs and potato salad and then guide the conversation to the connections between your family and military service. Memorial Day may well become your favorite day of commemoration.
- - -
Linda Moss Mines is the Chattanooga and Hamilton Historian, a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission and an active member of the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR.