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Remembering Memorial Day

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By RALPH HARDIN

Evening Times Editor T hese days, for many of us, if it were not for having the time and date flashed at us every time we pick up our phones, we wouldn’t be real sure what day it even is, but a quick check of your calendar will reveal that this coming Monday is Memorial Day.

Normally, that would mean a three-day weekend, cookouts and perhaps a trip to the cemetery for a grave site visit or a VFW salute to the fallen, but these are very strange times and it’s hard to come together when we can’t, you know, come together.

Memorial Day became a thing in the 1860s. In the aftermath of the Civil War, “Decoration Day” was held and made an official national holiday under its current name in 1967, observed the last Monday in May. For many, it is the unofficial kick-off for summer, devoted to retail sales, family gatherings, vacations and sporting events.

With most of that out the window this year, let’s remember the real purpose of Memorial Day – to remember and pay tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedoms.

I had only been with the newspaper a few months in 2010 when the first Memorial Day since my hiring rolled around. And as always, the editor wanted to put something in the paper regarding the holiday, and having done several of these types of stories over the years, he was looking for new ideas.

So, I wrote a little tribute piece. One I will share again, in part, here.

My name, as you might already know, is Ralph. I named my sons after their grandfathers, so they missed out on the “Ralph” moniker, for which they are probably grateful. If I could have a “Memorial Day wish” it would be that neither of them has to name one of their sons after someone in our family who was killed in action fighting for their country.

But I was.

If you are in your late 60s or 70s and grew up around here you might remember another Ralph Hardin. He’s my uncle, but I never met him. He was among the more than 58,000 American soldiers who came home from the Vietnam War in a flagdraped casket. He was killed in action on May 6, 1970, three years before I was born – a tragedy amplified by the fact that he would have completed his tour of duty and returned home a little more than a month before he was killed.

Though I never served (I always jokingly say my Mom wouldn’t let me, but I’m only kind of joking), my family, like many of yours, is filled with uncles, cousins, grandfathers, brothers and sisters who have served, fought or even died for this country, and we are all, I’m sure, thankful for their service.

My father saw fit to name me, his firstborn son, after his brother. Ralph is not a very popular name these days. I can count on my fingers the total number of other Ralphs I have met in my 46 years. The most famous Ralph these days is the actor Ralph Fiennes, and he pronounces is “Rafe,” which I think is cheating.

A while back, I had to call a pest control company to handle a pesky ant problem I was having. I gave my name and number to the company and was told they would have one of their guys call me to schedule a time for him to come by. Sure enough, the next day I got a call but I missed it, so I called back.

“This is Ralph,” came the voice on the other end of the line.

No, I thought to myself, this is Ralph, and I told him so.

He chuckled and said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought when I saw your name on the slip. You must be an older fella. There aren’t too many younger folks named Ralph anymore.”

I returned the chuckle and told him my age.

“I was named after my uncle who was killed in Vietnam,” I said.

“Well, I’ll be,” the other Ralph said, “I was named after my Uncle Ralph who was killed in World War II.”

I thought about that for a second and said, “Well, I sure am glad we didn’t have to go to any war. I’d hate for some poor kid to have to be named Ralph after one of us.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “With these wars, I guess there’s a shortage of Ralphs.”

I suppose there are. Likely, there is likely a shortage of a lot of names thanks to the losses countless families have had to endure because of conflicts around the globe over the long history of our nation, a nation born out of revolution.

So, whatever socially-distant celebration you’ve got planned, remember the saying, “All gave some, Some gave all.”

And have a happy Memorial Day weekend!

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