Share on Google+
Memorial Day Parade on Washington Street, Nantucket

Memorial Day Matters!

Memorial Day service at Nantucket cemetery

Memorial Day has always been a special time for me.  Like Nantucket today, my small home town in New Hampshire had a parade with military personnel carrying the flags, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, veterans, and the women’s auxiliary.  At the cemetery, the parade stopped at the Civil War memorial for a service of remembrance, which always included the playing of Taps and the recitation of the Gettysburg Address.  Then the parade marched back to town and we had orange soda and Hoodsie cups at the Town Hall across the street from the American Legion Hall.   I recall that after the festivities, the rest of the day was one of sharing memories and usually another visit to the cemetery to decorate the graves of family members who may not have been veterans but were still remembered.  My mother, whose birthday was May 30th, always called the holiday “Decoration Day.” The decorations we left at family members’ graves were always red geraniums.

This year the Nantucket VFW, American Legion and Holidays for Heroes have started a community-wide program to “Bring Back Memorial Day.”  Veterans are visiting the schools to talk with children about the meaning of the holiday, people are being interviewed on ACK-FM to talk about their heroes, and sponsors are lining up to help support the initiative--to re-engage residents and visitors in the traditional meaning of Memorial Day.  The Chamber of Commerce is delighted to be part of this community effort.  As one of the Founding Sponsors, the Chamber is helping to promote the event and the idea. 

The parade steps off at 1 pm on Sunday, May 29th from Washington Street near the American Legion.  It will have a longer route this year, including a pause at the service memorial at the Town Building on Federal Street and one at the Civil War Memorial on Upper Main Street, before entering Prospect Hill Cemetery.  I hope you’ll participate in this year’s Memorial Day activities on Nantucket.  Line up along the parade route to watch the marchers pass; take the time to hear the speeches and remembrances at the cemetery.  It will be an hour well spent on a holiday and a meaningful way to honor the memory of service members who have died. 

I suspect that your participation in the formal Memorial Day events may change the conversation at your family cook-out later in the day.  Take the time to talk about family members who have died – especially remembering stories about those that the young members of your family may not have known – grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors and friends.  You may even discover that some of those traits you admire in those family members and friends who surround you today had a precedent in someone who came before.  Memorial Day is one for memories!

Janet Schulte is Executive Director of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce.  After a 25-year career in college administration in the Boston area, she moved to Nantucket in 2006 to work as Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.  Her volunteer activities include service on the Nantucket High School Council, the town’s Ad Hoc Fiscal Committee (2009), the Nantucket Cottage Hospital Advisory Council, and the First Congregational Church.  Janet enjoys birding trips with the Sunday morning birders and swimming laps at the Community Pool – two activities she learned after age 35.  She holds a Ph.D. in American History and wrote her thesis on the “History of Summer Vacations in Northern New England, 1880-1940.”