Memorializing the fallen

As we look forward to Memorial Day and a three-day weekend, we should take a moment to remember the meaning of the holiday. It’s a day to remember all the men and women who died in all wars in which the United States has participated since and including the Civil War.

An interesting piece of local history has Nora Fontaine Davidson credited with commemorating the first Memorial Day in Petersburg by laying wreaths at the graves of the fallen at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.

Originally called Decoration Day, it was commemorated every year on May 30. Later in the late 1960s, as it happened with a number of other national holidays, it was changed to the last Monday in May. According to the United States legislature at the time the new dates would allow for a three day weekend, and the name was changed.

I can remember my mother call Memorial Day, Decoration Day and Veterans and those who had lost family members to war would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and wreaths,

A number of other wars and conflicts commemorated by the United States and other countries around the world include:

A Great Jubilee Day, first held in May 1783, memorialized those who died in the Revolutionary War.

ANZAC Day an analogous observance in Australia and New Zealand, on the 25 of April every year.

Armistice Day celebrated the victory and the end of WWI, and other days honor the soldiers of conflicts such as Confederate Memorial Day, Heroes’ Day.

Patriot Day memorialized the deaths: 2,977 victims on 9/11 in 2001 at the Twin Towers in New York City.

United States military casualties of war is 1,321,612. The most casualties (about 212,000), was only one of 78 wars, skirmishes or minor bombings. The Civil War tops WWII by over 200,000. (http://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=727510)

I will be commemorating two memorial days this year, one – ANZAC Day (April 25) which honors those killed at Gallipoli during the WWI, which was a standoff after a battle with the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and our Memorial Day, May 26. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Turkey, Niue, Pitcairn Islands, Tonga, Great Britain, France and British India.

ANZAC Day is considered the biggest holiday in Australia. The day starts with solemn memorials and then by 2 p.m. the country begins to celebrate the heroes who lost their lives there. Gambling is generally illegal in Australia, except for the occasional one-armed bandit in pubs. However, due to the significance of this tradition, two-up is legal only on Anzac Day.

I played two-up at an Australian Bowls Club in Australia almost a month ago on ANZAC Day.

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated “Spinner” throwing two coins or pennies into the air, which have been laid on a flat stick. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads up, or tails up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail. It is traditionally played on ANZAC Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with diggers through the ages.

The coins are tossed by a volunteer from a group of bettors, surrounded by those who bet from $5 to $50 and more. The winner of the bet, two coins on heads or tails, get the money from the person who bet the opposite outcome. I lost 50 bucks (my limit) in about 15 minutes. My friend since high school, who lives in Australia, won $80 and it’s all 100 percent luck.

According to myth, the simple two-up was played by those passing time in the trenches at Gallipoli.

I spent just short of a month in Australia with a number of friends that I have known for a minimum of 40 years. We reconnected by Google about 10 years ago and continued our fast friendship since. Linda and I have visited our six friends, who left America in 1980, a couple of times, and met their growing families, now dozens, and their friends, although even their English can be hard to understand sometimes.

This time I visited them alone. Someone had to take care of the paper. What a smooth move on my part, right?

I stayed with one good friend on “Dead Dog Hill,” more like a mountain, and experienced the joys of farming. There’s a huge movement there to grow one’s own food and buy organically. Honey, lettuce, fruit, you name it, can be purchased at local farmer’s markets. I visited one such market that had maybe 30 or 40 vendors.

Another of my good friends was inquisitive. She asked, “Is there a movement in America to eat better, organically or homegrown?” Of course you knew my answer.

In addition to staying on Dead Dog Hill, I spent the rest of my time in Tathra, a small beach town with cliffs or headlands rising from the ocean. This little town, if you remember it from the news a couple of months ago, is where a woman was eaten by a shark. The water felt pretty good to me. I also filmed my friend Colby swimming above six-feet wide sting rays. They won’t bother you unless you bother them.

That’s my travel guide for this week. Stop by and I’ll show you all 300 of my slides. Sound like fun, I think.

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