Omir the Storyteller

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

About The Angel of Fredericksburg


Memorial Day was the brain child of one Henry C. Welles, a druggist from Waterloo, New York. In 1865 he suggested a holiday to remember those who had fallen in the Civil War. The idea gained immediate traction, and by 1868 communities outside Waterloo were celebrating Decoration Day, as it was then called. General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30 to be set aside to honor the nation's fallen dead. In 1966 the date was changed to the last Monday in May, where it has been ever since.

The time was in this country when we took Memorial Day seriously. There were parades, speeches, layings of wreaths. We did some memorializing. We still see some of it today; they still hold Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, and some communities still hold Memorial Day parades. Including, I was happy to find out, Waterloo, New York.

Mostly, though, it seems like Memorial Day has just become an excuse to take off work. You see pages and pages of the newspaper devoted to three-day sales of everything from cars to soup, and the sheer volume of them dwarfs the amount of space given over to reflecting on the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in service to their country. So, while I fully approve of getting a day off with pay, I thought it fitting to use today's Sunday Griot to reflect, not just on those who died in battle, but to those like Sergeant Kirkland who brought a little humanity to the bloody business of war.

Water! Water! was adapted from a piece by a writer named Ben La Bree which was published in a book called "Good Stories for Great Holidays" published around the turn of the 20th century. The dialog, which sounds a bit stilted to my ear, was pulled from the story; the rest I embellished just a bit in the telling. Here's a page dedicated to the Kirkland monument with a picture of Kirkland. Not much to look at? I wrote that before I saw the picture, but the point is, he wasn't anything remarkable -- except perhaps to those soldiers he brought water to.


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