Memorial Day was once called "Decoration Day." Loved ones gathered to decorate the graves of those who had fought for their country.
When I arrived at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena Saturday, someone had already been decorating the graves with small, identical American flags. A local veterans organization? Anyone know?
The soldier graves at Mountain View go back to the Civil War. The history contained in the place must be amazing. But this recent grave brought me to tears. It's not a blank stone; I photographed it from behind so as not to invade the family's privacy. This soldier's been in the ground three years. He was 22 when he died in Iraq.
When his family arrives at his grave today, they'll see that flag and know that others care. They won't know about my tears, but I hope they'll know that the loss of their "beloved son and brother"— as an individual and as a symbol of other individuals—is felt by other citizens of the world. Some of us feel he died for a cause. Some of us feel he died in vain. And in America, we still have a right to say so.
I live in California and my father, who was a Marine in World War II, is buried in Illinois. I hope someone decorated his grave with a flag today.