I’ve recently found myself referring people to this video, so I decided to make it easy to find by embedding it here! Please note I do not see this as a political issue–I see it as a social, and in many cases, personal issue. Bear in mind also, any attempt to summarize a complex issue in a five-minute video is going to suffer from over-simplification and omission. The point is not to convince; the point is to get you thinking! (I’m not sure I agree with everything presented, but we’ll leave that for another day!)
Guilford—The students and staff of MSAD 4 are inviting area Veterans and the general public to attend their Annual Veterans’ Day Celebration on Tuesday, November 10th at 1:00 p.m. “We’ve certainly created a tradition,” noted John Keane, PCSS Principal. “We’ve been hosting these celebrations for at least a decade. But it’s a tradition that seems to have more meaning every year and it’s anything but a habit—every year we create some differences.”
Organizers note that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam and have included Vietnam Veteran and former state representative Peter Johnson as a guest speaker to commemorate the occasion.
The Marine Corps League, Bangor Detachment 1151 will open and close the program by formally posting and retiring the colors. The celebration includes the traditional patriotic music, student presentations, and selected readings that will feature students and staff from grades three through twelve. The Armed Forces Medley Salute performed by the PCSS Band typically brings the entire audience to its feet as the school and community honors veterans and those who serve in each branch of the service.
Thanks to technology, Katie Haley, a graduate of PCSS who is now on active duty with the Maine National Guard will appear “on screen” to converse with the audience about her service.
The tribute will be held in the Piscataquis Community Secondary School Gymnasium on Campus Drive in Guilford in order to accommodate the anticipated crowd. A local resident who has attended for several years commented, “This is one school program you don’t want to miss. There is some obvious sadness over the sacrifices that have been and are being made by our military. But that sadness is balanced with a deep sense of pride and appreciation. Experiencing that with children of all ages, Veterans, friends and neighbors means moist eyes and going home with a deep sense of community unity.”
Veterans and friends, parents and the entire community is invited to celebrate are encouraged to attend. Refreshments for Veterans, visitors and guests their friends will be served in the cafeteria following the program. For those unable to attend, the program will be live streamed from the school’s website (http://www.sad4.org). Long distance guests are encouraged to visit the site fifteen minutes prior to the event to establish a connection.
During a trip through a store recently I found it necessary to wind my way around cases of beer stacked in the aisle. It didn’t take long to recognize this was part of society’s preparation for yet another Memorial Day. I’m not a member of the Temperance Union, so I do not see this as a bad thing.
The day was actually filled with reminders. There was the obligatory stop to deposit a donation in a volunteer fireman’s boot… the need to slow and swerve around the work crews installing flags on the utility poles throughout towns in the area… and the buzzing of lawn mowers and trimmers when driving by cemeteries.
There’s a lot to love about Memorial Day, really. A memorial is most typically an object, designed to focus memory of something—a person or an event. Memorial Day is meant to remind us of the people who died while serving in the armed forces. Wikipedia puts that number at approximately 1,354,000 for all wars. That is a sobering statistic and a lot of remembering.
But these are not just faceless numbers and names, either. Little effort is required to see them, even if only in our minds and hearts.
An admirable characteristic of our society is that we are willing to memorialize these men and women. We do so in many ways—from granite monuments to parades and ceremonies, we do remember.
One Memorial Day reminder that I haven’t had yet this year is my annual purchase of a poppy. I have past purchases scattered around, attached to jackets, and the lamp beside the bed. I could probably find one in my jewelry box. But it’s the act of purchasing that is important, perhaps because I get to see a face and shake hands with someone who served. I fear this is a fading tradition, even as we celebrate its 100th anniversary. In 1915, Moina Michael came up with the idea of wearing a red poppy in honor of those who died in war. She also sold poppies to friends and coworkers with the proceeds going to benefit servicemen in need.
The program was adopted by the VFW in 1922 and became both a source of income and an important memorial. Most are at least casually familiar with the poem “In Flanders Fields.” Few are aware that it was the inspiration for Moina’s own poem and her poppy program.
We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
While we are willing to memorialize these men and woman, I think Moina understood an important truth. If we were not willing to march or watch… if we were not willing to purchase and hang flags throughout our communities… if we did not visit cemeteries and erect monuments… (all important things we should do)… there are still undeniable signals—some as simple as a red poppy—to remind us that the blood of heroes never dies.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
L. M. Montgomery
For me, Memorial Day is always a day of reflection and tradition. Unfortunately, one tradition has been lost because of distance. And yet it has not been lost because of memory.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories center on this day. I remember multiple trips to the cemetery with my father. We would retrieve the flag holder from his father’s grave for wire brushing and a fresh coat of paint before the new flags were placed. I felt a special sense of pride that Grandfather had two flags–British and American, although I didn’t fully understand why at the time.
Of course there was grass to trim and flowers to plant. We also had to go to the Legion Hall because there were rifles to clean and ready. Dad led the honor guard and he strove for perfection. To this day, I long to hear “one shot” when the volley is fired. And after all these years, I consider myself fortunate that I can still remember those days when the whole town turned out to follow the parade. I wish we still did that.
Dad served in the Navy, stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. I believe he strove for perfection because it a way of honoring and remembering those who didn’t come home. In the too few years he and I had together he taught me many things. On Memorial Day I learned “This is important.”
I was five when my Dad was laid to rest next to his father. When old enough I accepted the responsibility for maintaining the family plot. For a while I was able to share it with my daughter Bethanie.
Time has passed. Life has happened. And while I miss actually making those preparations I am pleased they are not lost.
Today is a day for remembering and there is much to remember. I’ll be at our town parade. Most of these parades get a little shorter every year. The news reports that one town in Massachusetts will not have a parade, “There aren’t enough veterans.” But in my mind I’ll see an endless line of veterans marching. They are not lost. I’ll probably get a lump in my throat when taps are played. But I’ll smile when I remember that the term “taps” originates from the Dutch term taptoe, meaning “close the beer taps and send the troops back to camp.”
Remembering and reflecting does not have to be about loss. “Nothing is ever really lost as long as we remember it.”
Day is done, gone the sun From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky All is well, safely rest God is nigh. Fading light dims the sight And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright From afar, drawing near Falls the night. Thanks and praise for our days Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky As we go, this we know God is nigh.