Last week’s July 4th holiday got us thinking about what had become of Operation Unite Community, a local organization of civic-minded men and women dedicated to enhancing Chagrin Falls’ sense of patriotism.
It wasn’t our lack of enthusiasm for the red, white and blue they questioned, but how we Chagrin-Americans observed the country’s three big patriotic holidays.
Over time the three – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day – were nearly indistinguishable in the way Chagrin observes them. It was time for a change.
Let’s review: Memorial Day is a solemn occasion that pays tribute to those who “gave their last full measure of devotion” so future generations can move forward in realizing the great American “experiment.”
Technically, Memorial Day is to remember those servicemen and women who died while serving in the military. But who would deny the old timers for getting public admiration and the dozens of time they will hear “thank you for your service?”
Next on the calendar is Fourth of July – Independence Day – a colorfully noisy birthday party for America held from sea to shining sea and border to border in celebration of another year of freedom despite the ever-present “I dare yous” from foreign and domestic rascals itching for a fight.
On this day, there are fireworks shows and tributes to the founders who put everything on the line for the idea of America.
On the Fourth of July we take time to wonder at the risks the founders took when they had no idea whether independence from England was possible. If it was successful, a new society would be born and if it worked the signers would be patriots. If success escaped their grasp they would be called traitors and hung for treason.
The third patriotic holiday is Veterans Day which differs from Memorial Day in that it celebrates the service of still living U.S. military veterans.
Veterans Day is not the same thing. It is always held on the 11th month, 11th day at the 11th hour in remembrance of the month, day and hour the armistice was signed ending World War I.
And it was a memorable experience two years ago when the folks from Operation Unite Community planned and carried a truly meaningful experience for everyone.
Included in that “everyone” were Chagrin Falls students who gathered in the Performing Arts Center to hear from World War II veterans to currently serving military members and veterans from all wars in-between.
They recounted their experiences, answered questions and left a lasting impression with their testimony to history. Recreating such a stunning event on an annual basis is tricky given the fact Nov. 11 falls on a different day of the week.
If it was up to me, I would leave the Memorial Day observation up to Chagrin Falls American Legion Post 303, John Bourisseau and the Chagrin Falls Historical Society.
In recent years, the historical society rediscovered the resting places of Civil War veterans buried in Evergreen Hill Cemetery and properly honored them by placing American flags on their graves and those of every other serviceman and servicewomen buried on the hill.
That leaves Fourth of July, and for our two cents, something needs to be done so it can rise to its occasion. For one thing, the celebration starts too early. Who gets up that early – 8:30 a.m. on a holiday?
There is a kids and pets bike parade for kids and the D.A.R. hands out copies of the Declaration of Independence. There is patriotic music but there needs to be more of it.
Veterans introduce themselves into the microphone set up at a podium in the center of Triangle Park. Each veteran present came forward and announced their name, rank, branch of service and serial number – if they can remember it. Then they gather for a group photo. It’s a great moment, too.
If we had our way, we’d add fireworks and a little drama.
The last really impressive and meaningful additions to the July 4 celebration in Chagrin Falls was three decades ago.
That is when the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre sent actor Don Edelman, in Revolutionary War-era costume – to the Triangle Park bandstand where, as John Adams, he gave the patriot’s impassioned speech from the musical “1776.”
It is a still-remembered moment that should be part of the July Fourth program every year and don’t forget the fireworks show.