Memorial Day, 2009

25 May, 2009

Today was a beautiful day.  We got up early ((((Wife))) and I have the day off together (which doesn’t happen that often)) to take (((Girl))) to the school so she could march in a Memorial Day parade up in Wilkes-Barre Township. 

Since we have a mini-van, we transported one set of quads, two bass drums and two snare drums.  Plus the mounting hardware. And all the drumsticks and mallets.  No drummers, though.  Just the drums.  The drummers rode the bus (and as we were carrying the drums, we didn’t have to ride will all the teenagers  (one of the lesser-known perks of a mini-van)).

The ceremony up at the Legion hall was not as painfulas last year.  Last year’s speech (by a man resembling Colonel Blimp) was painfully religious.  This years speech, by Captain Bilski (a PA State Trooper, explosives expert, and PA National Guardsman) focused on the idea of service, commitment to law, commitment to democracy, commitment to the ideals that we as Americans cherish.  He did thank god, but on a personal level (with which I have no problem).  He also stressed that every soldier fights and dies to defend our Constitution.

(((Girl))) continued a family tradition:  during the ceremony, she blew taps.  When I was in high school, I blew taps at Antietam National Cemetery with the same trumpet she uses today.  Pride brought a tear to my eye.  And the  memory of playing the same notes, on the same day 25 years ago, was a little jarring. 

The American Legion hall feeds the band members, so (((Wife))) and I watched the instruments while they went through the food like starving banshees. 

Memorial Day 2009 026 mod

All in all, a wonderful day.  A day of memories.  A day of gently patriotism.  A day of reality.

I do, however, wish that we could retire Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American.”  It’s a mediocre song that has been done to death.



  1. Memorial day. My legs ares still twanging from two parades and there was a concert. My wife has instructed me to “Leaveh! Me! ALOOOONE!” until half an hour before our drum lesson. Day was rough on her, too, the first parade was quite long (although level! No small thing!) and it was pretty warm.

    Wife is a short woman, overweight, in her sixties, and playing a rope tensioned snare for a mile and a half was, well, a bit taxing. And it’s late May, not mid April!

    I am actually related to the Myers on the Boalsburg monument. We used to camp in the cemetary and take part in the ceremonies, but every moron driving past at night had to flash their headlights and honk their horn so sleep was almost impossible. After set up we would order “Italian Hardtack” (pizza) and usually had to call a couple of places. They didn’t think the graveyard was the place to deliver. Figured we were joking.
    We go elsewhere now.

    I was to the point that is I heard one more bout of American flagging, land of the free home of the braving, apple pieing, or under godding, I was going to rauf.

    It seems to be the symbol rather than the substance which is revered in these things, Sunday truths are told, mythology is is dusted off and put on display.
    The dead are a safe bet, a wheel on the vehicle for the agenda of the present. They can’t talk, won’t say inconvenient things, and are beatified and so no one would actually quote things they DID say, it would be a cultural heresy.

    (It’s odd about how that happens, a relative in Maine has an ancestor who fought in the civil war, was wounded and had a leg amputated. The rest of his life, if he met a person who was an officer in his unit or any other he would curse at them as fools and butchers, denounced the war as a vehicle to advance the interests of capital and personal ambition, and in fact would throw rocks at people who rode by on horseback because they were of the class that sent others to suffer and die, and they did not “care a pinch of owl dung” about it.
    He was actually prevented from attending patriotic civic functions because of his views, was regarded as cracked and a traitor, actually.
    But my cousin tells me that he has been rehabilitated as a “patriot” who “willingly sacrificed” and was proud his service. (According to his personal papers, he was, but what he thought of the whole enterprise and the people running it was another matter). He’s quiet now, won’t tell grieving war survivors that most of the last words of the honored dead that he heard were groans or incoherent screams.

    Why do we forget the indignities, cruelties, and such that go with being the chattel of the state?

    I think that the only two occurances of honest and recognition of the dead of war was by Finlay Peter Dunn in his Mr. Dooley papers, the essay “Decoration Day”, and what Lucian Truscott did in Italy.

    An uncle of mine was present when a cemetary in Italy was dedicated, WWII still going on. He’d been wounded and was told to attend this ceremony since he was ambulatory, but was glad he went in the end.

    Gen. Lucian Truscott, who had commanded the 3rd Infantry got up to speak and scandalized and insulted all the VIPs present. When it was his turn to speak, he turned his back on all the senators, functionaries and brass and spoke to the occupants of the graves. Actually apologised to them for what had happened, among other things.

  2. Truscott sounds like my kind of general.

  3. Sarge: I agree that the symbolism has come to be more important than the memories themselves, than the honour of the dead and wounded, than the sacrifice and service. Which is depressing.

    Truscott was not a great general, but he sure came pretty damn close to being an honest general. Have you read “The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943 – 1944”? Fantastic military history.

  4. Yes, I have read it. My youngest is stationed in Sicily, his local friends have taken him to see things not on the local veteran tours.

  5. Cool. I can’t wait for the third volume in his trilogy.

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