Even when I was very young I felt strangely about Memorial Day. We would drive to relatives’ graves and put flowers, out of respect, as my older family members called it “Decoration Day.” My father did not like the holiday at all. He was drafted into World War II at 19 and sent to Okinawa in 1944 at the end of the U.S. battle against the people of Okinawa (and also against Japanese soldiers) and kept there during the U.S. occupation. When finally he talked about it, after age 80, it was to explain to his grandchildren why he hated war. He was proud that he never used his weapon, as was the case with the majority of conscripts there.
But he was sad, always, for the civilians who were killed. “Why did the Army and Air Force have to kill these peaceful people? I never agreed with it.” Having been a hunter on the farm as a child, he banned all guns from our home. We didn’t fly the flag, or congratulate people “for their service.” Pity the poor VA social worker who suggested he take a veterans’ “honor flight” to DC when he unloaded 65 years of anger at the U.S. on her.