Thursday, June 3, 2021

Honoring Those Who Served


Cemetery in Macksville, Kansas
Photo Credit:  Larry Fenwick

Since we returned to the farm, my husband has marched with the VFW on Memorial Day.  Over the years the veterans marching have changed, with the W.W. II veterans gradually disappearing from the group.  This year the marchers were reduced in number by the death of a Viet Nam Veteran normally a part of their group, who passed away recently.  It was a challenge to assemble marchers, at a time when fewer local men and women choose to join the military, but as it turned out, the largest group in quite a while arrived on a damp morning, assembling in the mist and drizzle in hopes that by 10 o'clock the weather would clear.

In past years I had dropped my husband off and driven to the cemetery to visit the graves of my many ancestors buried there.  This year I waited to take him to the cemetery, and it gave me the opportunity to watch the men and one woman prepare for the ceremony.  I had not realized the effort taken to polish up a group of veterans who haven't drilled in decades, except for the occasional participation on Memorial Day.

To be honest, they looked a little ragged.  The variety in height ranged from short to tall, and the belts tightened around their waists would have been several inches shorter when they were on active duty, but as they stood there in the damp chill doing their best to drill as they had years before, I thought they looked like heroes.

Last year it poured rain on Memorial Day, and the ceremony was delayed until the following Saturday.  Despite the drizzle, this year they were determined to march, crossing their fingers that the weather would clear.  It didn't.  They drove to the cemetery and began to assemble, surprised by the crowd waiting in the rain to watch the ceremony.  Instead of clearing, the drizzle had increased.

Reluctantly, they decided to cancel the ceremony.  The sound system had been prepared, and there was worry about the danger of combining electricity with drizzle and electrical cords on wet grass.  The minister, under the tent where the electrical equipment was assembled out of the rain, delivered a prayer after the decision not to carry out the program was announced.  People began to head toward their cars.

The veterans were disappointed.  The honor guard had failed to march only twice before, and one of those times was the previous year when they did march on Saturday.  It is a duty taken seriously, a community tradition that is expected.  Two hours later, the weather had cleared enough that they could have marched.  However, the town had planned a nice lunch and interfering with that would have been a different disappointment. 

Those who had come to the cemetery expecting the traditional ceremony may have been disappointed, after waiting in the drizzle themselves.  It certainly seemed unfair to everyone that Mother Nature had spoiled the tradition two years in a row.

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