Why there’s no “happy” in Memorial Day

Updated May 27, 2016

Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, published by Camel Press).
Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, published by Camel Press).

The following passage is from my second novel,  Johnnie Come Lately.  (Reader discretion advised).

     Johnnie was about to rave on Granny’s baked beans

when Callie Ann piped up, “Hey, D.J., tell everybody what

happened this morning when you went to buy cigarettes.”

     D.J. looked up from his plate. He put his fork down and

cleared his throat.

     “So, I’m standing in line at the 7-Eleven. The guy in front

of me pays for his stuff and says to this young female

cashier,‘Happy Memorial Day.’ Man, I thought that chick

was going to come over the counter. She shoves the guy’s change at him and

snarls, ‘What’s so fucking happy about Memorial Day?’ ”

     Johnnie cringed.

     Before anyone could say something, D.J. picked up his

plastic fork and stabbed at a pile of baked beans. “Sorry about

the F-bomb,” he apologized. “I’m just reporting what I heard.”

     Johnnie took a deep breath and reached for Brother’s head.

As usual, he was at her side, waiting for a scrap to fall. She

needed to hold onto the one member of the family who wouldn’t judge her.

Wouldn’t judge any of them.

     Running her fingers through his soft fur, she said what

needed to be said.

     “Well, considering that my father died in war, I have to agree

with that young lady at the 7-Eleven. There’s absolutely nothing

happy about Memorial Day. It’s a day set aside to honor the

war dead.”

 

Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press)

 

The author hugging her youngest son, former Army 1st Lieutenant (P) J.P. Rodgers, before his deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.
Hugging my youngest son at Fort Hood before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. He earned a Bronze Star for time in combat.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Kathleen M Rodgers welcoming home her youngest son, 1st Lt. J.P. Rodgers, from Afghanistan.
At the homecoming with my youngest son (oldest son to his right). My youngest is now a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves. In 2012, his roommate from Officer Candidate School was KIA by an IED. Everyday is Memorial Day for the family of 2nd Lt. Travis Morgado. This is why we can never associate the word “happy” with Memorial Day.       

“I’m frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing “Happy Memorial Day.” Jennie Haskamp, United States Marine Corp Veteran, for Washington Post.

 

This Is What Happiness Looks Like…When A Son Comes Home From War

At 6: 45 a.m. on the 1st Cavalry parade ground, Fort Hood, TX, we welcomed home our youngest son, 1st LT J.P. Rodgers, from his deployment to Afghanistan. Instead of my usual gift for gab, I’ll let these photos speak for themselves.

Author Kathleen M Rodgers welcomes home her youngest son, 1st Lt. J.P. Rodgers, from Afghanistan.
Me as I welcomed home my youngest son, 1st Lt. J.P. Rodgers, from Afghanistan.
Thomas Rodgers tackling his little brother on the parade grounds at Fort Hood. Thomas was the first one in our group to spot J.P. in the crowd.
Thomas Rodgers tackles his little brother on the parade grounds at Fort Hood. Thomas was the first one in our group to spot J.P. in the crowd.
USAF Lt. Col. Tom Rodgers (Ret) hugging his youngest son and thanking God for his mercies.
USAF Lt. Col. Tom Rodgers (Ret) hugging our youngest son and thanking God for his mercies.
Thomas Rodgers with his fiancée, Brittany McDaniel, moments after Thomas spotted his little brother on the field.
Thomas Rodgers with his fiancée, Brittany McDaniel, moments after Thomas spotted his little brother on the field.
Tom and Kathy leaving the parade grounds. We are feeling pure joy and relief. And grateful to God that our son came home alive from a war zone.
Tom and me leaving the parade grounds. We are feeling pure joy and relief. And grateful to God that our son came home alive from a war zone.
Thomas helping carry his little brother's duffle bag as we leave the field. Trinity is to the left of J.P.
Thomas  carries his little brother’s duffle bag as we leave the field. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homecoming Queen and the Football Star

1953, USA --- Original caption: 1953-A homecoming queen smiles and waves from the back seat of a convertible. --- Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS
1953, USA — Original caption: 1953-A homecoming queen smiles and waves from the back seat of a convertible. — Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

 

The homecoming queen

and the football star

out on a date

in Daddy’s car.

They’re the popular kids

in the town’s high school

that plays by

its own set of rules.

She wears a gown

and traditional crown.

He holds a pigskin

and helmet for the pose.

He’s the cream of the crop

and she – the unblemished rose.

After high school they’ll marry

and raise a mess of kids.

And some Saturday night

they’ll sit reminiscing

over the way things used to be:

before she wore aprons

and pockets of fat,

and he had hair

under his helmet

and the spare tire

rested in the trunk.

Their children vie

for the titles this year.

They keep the spirit of harvest alive

in small towns across America.

They’re the homecoming queen

and the football star…

the heart of the parade

in the convertible car.

© Kathleen M. Rodgers  ~ Alaska 1986

 

My poem inspired Denise Norris to purchase these charms for her mother, Johnnie Dale Norris, who was a homecoming queen and whose husband was a football star.
My poem inspired Denise Norris to purchase these charms for her mother, Johnnie Dale Norris, who was a homecoming queen and whose husband was a football star.