It's evolved into a day for the beach and backyard cookouts, but Memorial Day was designed for something far more significant. We consider today the ‘unofficial' start of summer, but it's really become just a welcome three-day weekend that often incorporates a nonchalant observance for those who died serving our country.
If that's your take on this federal holiday, then you should have heard my dad sing, especially on Memorial Day.
The Charleston Men's Chorus was founded in the early 1990s. The group will perform a patriotic medley of songs at noon today at St. Philip's Episcopal Church. It's not free, but if you love to stick out your chest, tap your feet and even sing along to service anthems and patriotic melodies, it's worth the price.
The group's membership ranges in age from 20 to 70. There are lawyers, doctors, educators and engineers. Its new director is Ricard Bordas, the choir master at First Scots Presbyterian. Since 1993, Pamela Nelson, has been the accompanist and her nimble fingers keep the group on time and in key.
There's something quite strong and even comforting about the harmonies of a male chorus. Sure, the tunes are familiar and often speak of victory and valor. But it's more than that. When grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers and sons unashamedly vocalize a love of country and a pride in America, it forces all of us to stand a little taller.
Some years ago, I took my parents to such a Memorial Day concert. My dad was a former Navy hospital corpsman who served with Marines during our stops at Camp LeJeune, N.C.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Oceanside, Calif. He was a Korean War vet who suffered from Alzheimer's in his last years.
During a Charleston Men's Chorus patriotic concert, the various anthems are sung recognizing the different military branches. Those who served are invited to stand when their anthem is honored.
At this particular concert, I wasn't sure just how much my Dad would participate. He loved music and he really loved his country. I didn't need to be anxious at all, as it turned out. When it was time for ‘Anchors Aweigh', he hustled to his feet, thrust a fist into the air and sang every word. As the Army and Air Force songs filled the church rafters he respectfully sat down. But when “From the halls of Montezuma” erupted from the chorus, he was back on his feet to support his Marine brothers. After all, that's what any good corpsman would do.
I'd never seen him so proud and always think of him ‘that' way rather than how he was when he died a couple of years later.
Memorial Day is meant for these kind of moments. Hearing the Charleston Men's Chorus provide the backdrop to this day is certainly a fitting way to pay tribute to those who died for the rest of us.
I wish I had been able to sing with my dad on that day, but the lump in my throat was too large to make that possible.
Is it just a simple, nonchalant observance — this Memorial Day? Depends on where you are and who you're with.
I'm just sayin'……