Saturday, June 5, 2010

Memorial Day at the Maine Veterans' Home

Well it's been a while. Lots going on of course, but nothing directly to do with the book. Mostly marina stuff. Putting the docks and moorings in the river, getting the place up and running for the summer. The big project was choosing and then installing a wi-fi system for our customers. That has been successful by the way, but that's not what caused me to open this screen and begin typing. No, what I would like to record is what happened a week ago at the Maine Veteran's Home. Dad now lives there. He has been there since New Years Day 2010. On Monday we were invited as family to come take part in the Memorial Day festivities. When we arrived the staff and nurses were just beginning to wheel many of the old vets out of the home into the parking lot. Those who are mobile like Dad shuffled along with their walkers. It was a sunny warm summer day on the Maine coast. Before long the sidewalk was filled with about 100 assorted old veterans and their families. When I scanned the crowd I saw caps with gold gilt names on the hat band: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard. They were all there. And then we heard the parade. The Scarboro Memorial Day Parade was marching down US Route 1 and turned up the driveway to the veteran's home. The Vet's home was the last stop for the parade and the site for the town's memorial service. All the veterans got to see the entire Memorial Day Parade pass in review. The high school band, the color guard, the girl scouts and boy scouts, the old cars
and tractors and the fire engine. All traveled around the circle of the parking lot and then stopped. The services began with the pledge of allegiance. That's when I heard a stirring and all about us these old old soldiers and sailors struggled to their feet. Those who could stood up and faced the flag, flapping proudly there in the light breeze from the coast. Some saluted, others placed their hands over their hearts and in voices barely audible recited the oath. It took a few minutes to get them all seated and comfortable again. The band played, the bag pipers squealed, the drums beat and the guest general gave a nice short speech. The ceremony honoring those who had given the last full measure of devotion to their country, and their buddies who had made it home was almost over. The high school band members stood up from their seats and raised their horns. They began playing the national anthem. One by one, the veterans rose one more time to stand and gaze at their flag flying in the morning sun. They remained standing while the VFW color guard fired a gun salute and then off to the side of the parking lot a high schooler played taps. The aching notes echoed off the sides of the Veterans' Home. the last note faded to silence and Memorial Day was done. Family and staff began to circulate and assist the aged vets with their wheelchairs and walkers and guided them back toward the open doors of the building. I'm not sure all knew or remembered why their nurses had brought them outside that day. But some did. Dad knew. He said it was a great time. It reminded him of Memorial Days gone by when it was called Decoration Day. I kept thinking to myself, "its so little", to recognize these veterans for what they did on just one day. And now here they are, many of them infirmed and unable any longer to care for themselves. I thought, we forget too soon. I honored the day by wearing my Vietnam Service Medal. Once a year I find that token and wear it for the day. We were together helping Dad to his feet when a stranger asked if we were a family. I said yes and she asked to take our picture. Jean and me and USN Shipfitter First Class Bob Randall, age 87 years, stood in the sun and smiled at the camera. Dad was tired and ready to return to his room. It seems to me at least this is one holiday the stores and merchants will not be able to commercialize. I hope people will keep the day pure and solemn and that at least once each year we all take time to remember and say Thanks. Its the least we can do.

1 comment:

Ronan said...

Beautiful story, You transported me right to the ceremony. Thanks, Jan Ronan