Happy Memorial Day

Denis O’Neill

Musings 2024 ~ Memorial Day
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. General John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. An alternate name, “Memorial Day,” bounced around almost from the beginning, but did not become the oUicial name of the holiday until 1967. It celebrates the men and women of uniform who gave their lives defending this country. It’s meaning and civil war inspiration hits home all the harder this year with so many MAGA Americans pursuing many of the same racist and anti-union policies which led to our first Civil War. They are led by a man who snickers at Americans who are wounded, captured or killeddefendingournation. Amanwhose11bonespursinhisfeet-andanotefroma podiatrist his father Fred coerced into writing – kept him out of the war in Vietnam right around the time Congress gave Memorial Day its oUicial status.
The irony is not lost on me that the red, white and blue baseball caps his treason-loving followers sport, features a “God & Guns” explanation for supporting Trump, and an image ofanautomaticweaponandacrossonthebrim. Whengiventhechancetowieldan automatic weapon for his country, Trump squirmed out of military service. As far as the cross goes, Trump’s professed Christianity comes with a lifelong track record of lying, cheating on wives, defrauding investors, avoiding darkening any church door, and once upon a time, around the January 6 insurrection, holding a bible upside down outside a WashingtonDCchurchtodemonstratehisdeepfaith. Onlymonthsago,hismost profound love (beyond self-love)… his love of money… led him to promote a Lee Greenwoodspecialbibleavailablefor$59.95. ManyofTrump’sfaithfulareprobablyno morereligiousthanheis. Iftheyare,theultimateironyoftheirLemming-likesupportis thattheyhavemadeadealwiththedevil. Anditisuptotherestofustomakesurethe deal does not go through on November 5.
Billy Smoyer grew up in Princeton, N.J. He was a senior at Dartmouth when I was a freshman. Back then there were freshman and varsity sports. Billy and I both played soccer and hockey so I ended up in hundreds of overlapping practices, and on countless buseswithhimtravelingtoawaygames. HewassuchasterlingcharacterbeyondtheAll- Ivy status he earned in both hockey and soccer. Admired and loved by both men and women. Someonewhosewordwasgold,whosecompetitivespiritwassecondtonone, and whose sense of fair play pervaded everything he did on and oU the soccer pitch and hockey rink.
HewaskilledinactioninVietnamonJuly28,1968,servingasamarine. Amongthemany tributes paid to Billy was one by Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey. He said of Bill,

“His memory will always be a part of the best that is Dartmouth.” An Ivy League referee, Arthur Williams said, “I have seen many coaches and players come and go, but I have never seen anyone who better embodied my ideas of the perfect athlete and gentleman than Billy.”
Billy’s name is inscribed on Maya Lin’s Vietnam War memorial in Washington. I took this picture of it a few years ago, accompanied by two of his Theta Delt fraternity mates, and twoofmyclosestfriends,RobWagnerandSteveAdams. Weallcriedtoseehimthere, etchedinblackgranite. TohonorAmerica’sfallenisamostappropriateandpatriotic response. To fight for America’s continuation as a democratic Republic has never been more paramount.
This Memorial Day, 2024, as we gallop toward a presidential election as significant as any sincetheCivilWar,pleasekeeptheBillySmoyersofourgreatcountryinmind. Whathe fought and died for is what Donald Trump and the Republican Party seeks to overturn.

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