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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

The Village has held a Memorial Day parade followed by a graveside service for the past 4 years in a row.  It is a revived tradition that had fallen by the wayside for a number of years.

The parade portion is well attended by residents who line Main Street, waiving miniature American flags, children running to the edge of the sidewalk to scoop up candy thrown by those in floats or fire engines.

The marchers end at the cemetery for a brief service then the revelers continue to a large field next to an ice cream stand where the children can play in free inflatable bounce houses and a vintage car show is held.

The difference this year - a very personalized and moving memorial service at the cemetery after the parade and before the merriment.

The members of the local VFW have always stressed to residents that Memorial Day is not a day of celebration, but a solemn occasion, a time to remember those who have died for their country.

This year the speakers from the Mayor, the Town Supervisor and the VFW Quartermaster were all very moving and poignant.  The reading of the following poem by an unknown author was quite fitting:

It was the Veteran,
Not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It was the Veteran,
Not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It was the Veteran,
Not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It was the Veteran,
Not the police,
Who has given us the right to be secure in our persons.

It was the Veteran,
Not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the right to demonstrate.

It is the Veteran,
Not the politician,
Who defends our Nation

It is the Veteran,
Who served under the flag.
Who gave his oath to support and defend
The Constitution and Our Nation
Against all Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

It is the Veteran,
Willing to give his life to protect your freedoms and mine.
Whose coffin is draped by the flag.

Also this year, 2 personal stories were shared about soldiers who were from the area and buried in the cemetery where the service was held.  The meaning of the day was clear.

The services were concluded and the crowd dispersed.  Following tradition, my husband and I joined a number of neighbors and went to the ice cream stand.  The sun beat down and everyone was hot and streaky with sweat.  Children tested their parents patience as they whined for ice cream, or a hot dog they wanted to prepare with condiments by themselves, a few tempers may have flared. 

I stood in line with my thoughts still swirling around the words spoken at the memorial.  My father-in-law was a veteran, my grandfather was a veteran and if I could have a choice it would be for a more peaceful world.

I think I understand how we have made the leap from a day of honor and remembrance to a three day weekend that kick starts the summer barbecue season.  Perhaps it started in the same way many chose to not simply sit and mourn the dead, but rather celebrate a loved one's life with stories or photos of happier times. I ordered soft serve vanilla with a waffle cone in a dish (it is always served with a chocolate chip cookie as well) and took a seat in the shade.  I realized more people attended the memorial service this year than the family activities.

With much to reflect on, I finish every last bit of my ice cream - I am indeed fed well.

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