Memorial Day

Letter From Texas

We used to go there on every Memorial Day—a small national cemetery off the road a piece in the woods.  It was usually warm; the woods, deep, green, and moist.  We would walk down a dirt path to the stone wall encircling the graves, sometimes passing others who had just visited there before us.  My wife and I would tell the children to spread the flowers around, making sure each grave was marked with a red rose.  Then we would walk back down the trail, leaving a flower at a lone marker near the edge of the woods.  The marker was for a young man—about 20 or so, as I remember.  Usually, the local Sons of Confederate Veterans had beat us to it, leaving flowers and a small Confederate Battle Flag to mark the spot where Clinton Hatcher was buried.  The marker read: “He died defending his native state.”

My two older children would ask me questions about the war.  It was hard, trying to explain why we needed to remember them all as I watched the Stars and Stripes wave over the graves.  I often wondered how Clinton Hatcher had felt, being forced by circumstance to take up arms against her.  And the questions of the different flags and of what patriotism really means came up more than once.  I remember telling the kids that Clinton Hatcher might have felt that those who had ordered the invasion of his state had taken the old flag away from him: Virginia was the...

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