The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 1, 2013

Memorial Day should be more than just a Monday

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— I said a prayer for veterans last weekend as I gorged on hot dogs, s’mores and watermelon.

I also thought about the veterans in my family.

Great-uncle Byron Keadle was a doughboy in World War I. He came home with a dented helmet on the day a bullet hit him and the Lord spared him.

Great-uncle Andy Canterbury also served in World War I. He was coming home from the war, but great-grandma didn’t know when. Telephones didn’t exist in the hollers of Monroe County. She looked out the front door and saw someone walking up the road to her house. She couldn’t see his face, but she recognized his walk and knew he was home.

Uncle Mac McNeer served with the Army during the slow, bloody island-hopping campaign in the Pacific to drive out the Japanese. He never talked of his experiences, and after watching Ken Burns’ series “The War” on PBS, I know why. What they experienced was unspeakable.

Great-uncle Charlie Keadle served with the Navy in the quartermaster corps as a storekeeper in the South Pacific. One of my favorite photos shows him with a group of comrades, shirtless, clenching a cigar between his teeth and wearing a grass skirt. He said that photo was taken the day they got word the war was over.

Great-uncle Roscoe Keadle volunteered for the Army after Pearl Harbor at age 41. His drill sergeant was nearly half his age. When it came time to send men overseas, the sergeant informed Uncle Roscoe that he would not be going. He served his hitch stateside.

First cousin Ronnie McNeer served with the Air Force during peacetime. He was in the service when he got married. I’d never seen a man in uniform before and thought he looked pretty spiffy. His son, Stacy, is active duty with the Coast Guard.

On Monday, I also watched the National Memorial Day Concert. The hosts continually made the point that appreciation and support of our veterans must go beyond one day of the year.

We need them every day of the year, and they need us every day of the year.

They need us the day they are looking for a job after coming home from their third deployment.

They need us the day they are trying to put their families back together after long months of repeated separations.

They need us the day they go to the local Veterans Affairs hospital to get stateside treatment for war wounds.

They need us the day they think they can’t make it through another day because of the emotional and psychological wounds they suffered.

The traditional date for Memorial Day was Thursday.

So keep waving the flags, convene a block parade to thank the veterans who are your neighbors and put some more hot dogs in the grill.

Memorial Day should be more than just a day. It should be a yearlong attitude.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2013 by Nerissa Young