"The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purposes of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country..."
This was the beginning of General Order Number 11 issued by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868, which is recognized as the first Memorial Day. On May 28, 2012, the residents of Gloucester will again come together to pay tribute to those who have fallen. It will be a somber time, a time to grieve, and a time to remember.
Unlike Veterans Day, where we honor those living men and women who have served in the military, on Memorial Day we honor those men and woman in the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their country. We must remember the freedoms that those men and women sacrificed so much for.
This is also a significant day for myself and my fellow Vietnam Veterans. This year marks the 50th "anniversary" of the beginning of the Vietnam War — a war unlike any other war that has been fought by our young men and women either before or after. For, unlike other wars, for the Vietnam War society seemed unable to separate the war from the warriors and we paid the price.
The Vietnam War was very divisive in this country, families and friends were torn apart in whether to support or oppose this war. The ones who paid the price for this divisiveness were the Vietnam Veterans.
It is significant that the Vietnam Memorial in Gloucester lies in the shadow of Gloucester High School. For all 11 young men who perished in that war had a strong bond and relationship with the high school. For many of them, it was their last link to this city before they went off to small Southeast Asian country and never returned to the open and welcoming arms of their parents, wives, children or friends.
But this is a day to honor all our men and women who perished in defense of our country throughout these centuries. From those who fell during the Civil War through the present conflagrations. They deserve no less.
Thankfully, the City of Gloucester has been spared the anguish of mourning the loss of one of their own from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Memorial Day, I will be standing by the World War II Memorial and looking down at the commemorative bricks that surround the monument and see the two bricks dedicated to my mother, Helen (Cassiani) Nestor, and father, Edward D. Nestor, both of whom were World War II participants.
My mother as an Army Nurse imprisoned for three long years as a prisoner of war in the Philippines and my father, a survivor of the campaigns in North Africa and D-Day. And I will remember the sacrifices that they and their fellow veterans made for their country. And on Memorial Day, DAV Chapter 74 will lay wreaths at the WWI Memorial, WWII Memorial and Korean War Memorial to honor and pay their respects to those brave men from those wars who fought and died for their country in the name of freedom.
Memorial Day is the day for the fallen and their families. It is a day when all living veteran have a duty and an obligation to attend both the World War II ceremony and the Vietnam Memorial ceremony to pay tribute and honor the memories of their late brethren.
The men and women that we honor gave their lives in defending our lives, our families' lives and our country. We live in a democracy because they died defending it. Unfortunately, those who have died so that we can live are not able to ask you to attend, but I can and do!
Let us make this Memorial Day truly a day of honor and remembering. Make a loud and convincing statement by your attendance that you do care and that you are grateful and humbled for all that these fallen warriors have done for your country.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those men and women who will never see their families again. It is also a day to thank these families for their ultimate sacrifice, namely, the loss of a loved one in the defense of freedom and democracy. It is undoubtedly a painful day for them and we must comfort them.
MARK L, NESTOR
Middle Street, Gloucester
Vietnam, Class of '70