Memorial Day has always been an important day in our family. More often than not, while I was growing up, we would be visiting my grandmothers in upstate Pennsylvania ... my Dad's Mom in Brockton, Pennsylvania and my Mom's Mom about eight (8) miles away in Barnesville. My Dad and all four of his brothers served our nation in the Armed Forces. There were also many cousins on both sides of the family who served as well. Two of my Dad's brothers were in the Normandy invasion and survived. While my Dad's oldest brother suffered no physical injuries that day, his second oldest brother after being in the cold Atlantic for so long a period of time developed complications with the circulation in the lower part of his body and eventually his kidneys failed.
The Catholic Priests from the Parishes in and around the area would visit the cemeteries and bless the graves where many of our veterans are buried and offer Mass or a prayer service. That tradition continues to today. For many years, my Dad, as the "eldest statesman" represented the Polansky family at those ceremonies.
After being ordained, I remember and participated in the Masses that were held in the cemeteries near where I was stationed ... in Vineland ... in Mullica Hill & Woodstown ... in Somers Point. In Mullica Hill and Woodstown, Mass would be celebrated in the two small church cemeteries and the local Knights of Columbus Council would make sure there was a flag on each veteran's grave and their names and the wars in which they fought were read out during Mass. Here in Clayton there was a parade and in Franklinville there was a service at the VFW. The Diocese published the Mass times and locations for remembrance Masses across South Jersey.
A few years ago when I first wrote this (it has been updated for the new blog), I learned of a YouTube video of an 11-year-old boy who did a special project for his class here in America by commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. I have included it below. I have also included the videos of another young man, Myles Eckert, who decided to "pay it forward" when he found a $20 bill and decided to give it to an enlisted man in the restaurant in which he was eating because he reminded of him of his Dad who was serving our country and was killed. As I found that video to repost, I found an update of the original. Miles' act did not go unnoticed.
I have a profound respect for those who serve our country in the armed forces and in our police forces and pray for them every day, every time I celebrate Mass. On this Memorial Day, I just wanted to say a special "Thank You" to all the men and women who give (and who gave) their lives defending our nation and our freedom. Thank you to all of their families for their sacrifices as well!