2013.05.30 Decoration Day in the rain

Written by David Green.

 

By DAVID GREEN

I'm sure that I've never returned home from a Memorial Day ceremony with streaks of mud on my coat and on the front of my camera bag. That was the wettest Memorial Day ceremony in my memory. I know there have been others in the rain, but none are coming to mind.

I almost drove to the park and the cemetery this morning, but that just wouldn't be right. It would defy tradition. I'm already pushing the limits by bicycling. I used to always walk, or at least walk my bike, but I wanted to get under a tree as quickly as possible.

Every Memorial Day ceremony makes me think of ceremonies past. For example, I arrived at Wakefield Park and didn't see the band around. There's been at least one other year when the school band wasn't present. This time I thought how we have a new band director and maybe no one told him about it. And then I spotted them under a picnic shelter, wisely staying out of the rain.

On my way into the park, I didn't even look around for any golf carts, ATVs, little motorbikes—elements of the Memorial Day parade since I was a kid. I was hoping there weren't any because it becomes an uncomfortable moment. A few years ago the decision was made to change the format from a parade with wailing fire trucks, ATVs doing wheelies, a few business trucks, etc., and instead go with what at Christmas would be called "the reason for the season." It's a solemn occasion, a march of remembrance for those who died while serving in the military—along with giving a nod of appreciation to those who served and survived.

I still hear people talking about how the parade has shrunk to nothing and it's hardly worth going to watch it, but size isn't the point. Of course it's worth going to watch the veterans go by, even if it's all over in three minutes.

I stopped at the old cemetery for photos and watched the procession move right on past me. I forgot that was no longer part of the ritual.

At Oak Grove, I looked at the band and wondered if it will perform "Tequila." That actually happened four or five band directors ago—someone who didn't quite understand the concept. I mentioned that to my wife last night and we both started laughing. It's part of the lore and legend of Morenci. If you weren't there—most likely you weren't there—just picture it in your head. Veterans gathered, dozens of citizens spread around under the oaks listening, flag raising, speeches...and the band plays that song they'd been working on for the spring concert.

I suppose they got to that spot in the song where everyone yelled, "Tequila!"

This was the first Morenci ceremony in a long time not run by Jack Sampson. Jack’s own flag was raised in his honor. Steve Rutkowski did a fine job leading the program, but it will be a while before I stop expecting to see Jack walk to the podium with a smile on his face.

Matt Hewitt was chosen as the speaker, surely one of the youngest we've had. I'm not a flag-waving type—just a quiet citizen of the country—and I wasn't in the military. So many speeches seem to focus on patriotism and express disappointment with what the speaker sees as a lack of it. I liked Matt's talk better than any I can remember.

Dates tell the official beginning and ending of a war, Matt said, but it doesn't really end for those who participated. He spoke of the special rules that are in effect in the homes of many veterans, the homes where blank stares are seen on the faces of those still living a bit of the horrors they witnessed.

"It's no secret to say that war changes people," Matt said, "and war wages on for those still living. That's the sacrifice. With every military funeral, a war has finally ended for another veteran who is finally at peace."

It was wet and it was chilly, but it was a good ceremony with a good-sized crowd standing under their umbrellas. And look on the bright side—no band member passed out in the heat.

 

  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.

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