Though Memorial Day is just a “three-day holiday” to some, many communities across the country still pay tribute to the day with the solemnity and deep reflection that it deserves. In fact, this is the weekend when “collecting community” comes “out of the basement.” You know what I mean. Maybe your family understands your passion, but you probably have noticed an eyebrow or two rise when you admit that you collect “military Jeeps,” “uniforms,” or even more shocking to the uninitiated, “military firearms.”
Memorial Day, however, is when we collectors claim our foothold within our communities. It is obvious in our local parades. While many Veterans are proud to march in the Memorial Day parades, there are many others who are no longer able to set the pace for the high school band or Scouting group that will follow. Thankfully, owners of historic military vehicles are more than happy to provide low-gear transportation for these less-ambulatory old soldiers. Seated in Jeeps, M37s, or in the back of 6x6s or half-tracks, these Veterans have the opportunity to wave to the audience while quietly paying respect to those soldiers who went before them.
With insufficient veterans group to participate in every cemetery memorial or tribute this weekend, military history enthusiasts volunteer to solemnly provide “21-gun” salutes. Whether aiming M1861 rifle muskets or M1 Garands skyward, these military history “reenactors” stand in for the veterans who are no longer able to fire the salute for comrades. Each reenactor recognizes the privilege and significant of the honored tradition. The explosive reports of their antique weapons will jar each of us to the significance of the day—remembering those who gave their lives in the service of our country.
Following these parades and ceremonies, many of us will attend breakfasts or picnics sponsored by veteran auxiliaries or clubs. Looking around, we might see a display of helmets, medals, insignia, or weapons with a person standing nearby, ready to explain how these items connect each of us to history. In most cases, that person is a private collector; someone who spends their spare time acquiring and identifying the significance of military relics. These private collectors provide tangible links to the sacrifices of generations. They provide the opportunity for grandparents to explain to a grandchildren just what it was like to serve our Country.
Memorial Day is the “super bowl of days,” when a collector has his or her best opportunity to make that connection. So whether your passion plays out in historic military vehicles, in recreating military events of our past, or collecting the relics and stories of soldiers of long ago, Memorial Day is that day when it all makes sense—to our friends, our neighbors, and most importantly, to ourselves. We collect because we want to remember. We collect because we want to honor. We collect to preserve the memory of those who sacrificed…so that we can pursue our passions in peace.
Honor the memory,
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine