2013.05.30 Decoration Day in the rain

Written 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.


  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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