As the years’ calendar turns to the end of May and the start of what we all see as the spring and summer season, or as we PITT football fans say “the time when no football things are happening” one date always jumps out at me.
It’s on that day our Memorial Holiday falls. In addition to the store sales, reunions, parties, parades, and picnics Memorial Day also holds a meaning that strikes a deeper and more significant cord in many of us. You all know that I’ve reference my professional life as a military officer before. Because that career and my experiences serving in that capacity filled almost my whole adult life, from age 22 until I retired four years ago, it is the lens in which I see, think and feel almost everything through.
So while woolgathering yesterday to try to figure out the next thing to write about Pitt football it occurred to me that I’ve never done a separate Memorial Day piece and that is because it seems to have nothing to do with PITT football. But after some serious reflection I do believe Memorial Day and the University of Pittsburgh, in all their respective facets, have deep ties and are intertwined both historically and in the present.
Many Pitt fans have friends and relatives who have served in the Armed Forces at some point, or maybe they themselves have. PITT students fought in our Civil War in the 1860s… on both sides. Early in the 20th century some of our grandparents who attended or were affiliated with the university volunteered to serve and were sent to Europe during WWI. Many of our parents, aunts and uncles had their PITT educations interrupted to join the fight in World War II. My father, two of my aunts and an uncle went directly from being students at PITT into the military then overseas to Europe and China-Burma.
Of course my mother, an younger woman, stayed home and attended PITT until my dad came back from the war and they could get married in Heinz Chapel in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning. A scenario repeated thousands of times across college campuses I’m sure. It is true that “They also serve who only stand and waite”.
PITT had many other students and alumni who served and some who gave ‘the last full measure’ as Lincoln so eloquently stated. There has never been a war or an armed conflict without PITT personnel involved. Here are just a few examples.