view counter

Turning by Way of Memorial Day to Summer

From a time of war to a time of peace

       To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. 
       Whether you hear the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes in those words, the twangy, rising voice of Pete Seeger or the harmonies of The Byrds, they’re likely to touch your heart. As the calendar turns to the last day in May, we find ourselves at a time with two purposes. First, Memorial Day. Then, sweet summer.
       Memorial Day is a time for remembrance.
       “The 30th day of May, 1868,” wrote John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, “is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet church-yard in the land.
        “In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed.”
        The lovely floral custom of Decoration Day, as ­Memorial Day used to be called, has evolved over 150 years. In this week’s paper, we write about a form of honor particularly dear to our hearts: seeking, hearing and retelling the stories of men and women who served — while they still have breath to tell them. 
       Reporter Bill Sells, himself a veteran, introduces us to people and programs doing just that. Frederic Bumgarner, historian of American Legion Post 206, has made a custom of reuniting veterans with their stories.
      Teens at Anne Arundel’s Southern High School are learning the stories of Vietnam veterans through the school’s Signature Program Oral History project, Maryland Veterans: A Journey through Vietnam.
      If there’s a veteran in your life — or if you have the legacy of a veteran’s letters and papers — I hope you, too, will extend the range of memory by listening to and learning their stories.
     Having taken that mission to heart, we can undertake our duties to summer, whose three-month season begins, meteorologically speaking, June 1. We make that turn by stuffing this week’s paper with our Guide to Summer on the Chesapeake, 101 Ways to Have Fun. 
      Fun is not for fun’s sake alone. “Outdoor recreation is a really big industry, providing jobs and income for local communities,” reporter Warren Lee Brown advises me.
       In the Chesapeake watershed, more than $52 billion dollars is spent annually on outdoor recreation. A million people in the six states in the Chesapeake watershed work to help us enjoy our outdoor recreation. 
Nationwide, outdoor recreation comprised two percent ($373.7 billion) of the 2016 U.S. gross domestic product.
       Part of that economic boost comes from our great National Park System, which hosted some 330 million visits last year. Visitors to National Parks spent some $18.2 billion in local gateway regions, communities within 60 miles of a park. The contribution of this spending was 306,000 jobs and $35.8 billion in economic output. 
       Take two Maryland National Parks, for example. The 610,000 visitors to Fort McHenry spent $35 million and generated $49 million in economic output. Two million visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore generated $112 million in economic output. 
       Direct economic benefits of recreation and conservation are also seen in how businesses make big investment decisions. Who is to argue with Amazon: In searching for a second headquarters, the company was looking for “locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent; places where its employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities and an overall high quality of life”. 
      A vibrant local economy is another good reason to use this precious three months to get outside to enjoy the natural and cultural treasures of Chesapeake Country.