Remember the meaning of Memorial Day
By: Bud Pisarek, Loomis News Correspondent
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When I was a little tyke roaming the streets and back alleys of the South Side of my hometown, Milwaukee, in a prominent Polish-Catholic neighborhood, we had plenty of traditions. There were the usual church holidays with all their rituals. There was the yearly sandlot Thanksgiving football game against those guys from south of Oklahoma Avenue. And I remember the Memorial Day tradition of visiting the cemetery and sprucing up the graves of friends and relatives. I especially remember visiting Grandma Anne’s plot. I had spent many a time sharing a Dixie cup ice cream with her. She would send me to the corner store to bring back two vanilla – of course – ice creams. The covers had pictures of movie stars that she collected: Myrna Loy, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and the like. Those were great times shared. Practically the entire neighborhood got up early on Memorial Day and trecked out with flowers and a sprinkling can ready to trim and beautify their relatives’ graves. It was like a pilgrimage. Some years later, on a cold early winter day, I shared a cup of coffee with two old friends of mine who had just finished basic training and had to report to the East Coast for deployment to the European Theater. They were named Joe W. and Joe K., both star athletes, and we talked about what schools they might attend after the war. After all, the war was winding down and we were all looking forward to its end. The time came to bid farewell and Joe W. headed south for home and Joe K. hopped the street car heading north. A soft snow covered their heavy khaki coats, and I trusted they were warm and hoped for their early return. It was several months later that the news came. Both Joes were killed in the Battle of the Bulge in northern Europe. Every Memorial Day I think of them — just a couple of kids named Joe.