Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006 - Part II

Some of my earliest memories were of Memorial Day. I grew up on a farm five miles outside of a very small town in Iowa. Every year, that small town would have a memorial service at the Baptist church. Following an opening prayer, a student from the elementary school would recite the Gettysburg Address... from memory. It was an honor to be chosen for the recitation. We sang patriotic hymns, including the Battle Hymn of the Republic. At some point a veteran would get up and speak to the packed house about why Memorial Day is so important. One such veteran resounds in my mind to this day. Mr. Gehring was an extremely interesting man... particulary to a young boy. Mr. Gehring had lost his left hand in World War I at the Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, he had two hooks that he could squeeze together using a contraption attached to his shoulder. Wow. Needless to say, he was old in a way that was nearly incomprehensible to me. My grandpa was old... Mr. Gehring was of another time altogether.

I remember clearly Mr. Gehring talking about the sacrifice of soldiers. Inparticular, I remember him telling us that when he was a boy, sitting in those same pews where we sat, it was a Civil War veteran that was standing at the pulpit and Civil War veterans that were gathered in the back. It was Civil War veterans that lead the march down the hill to the graveyard, a veteran that sounded Taps, and veterans that would assemble back at the church for reminiscence and food. Wow. The links to the past in rural America were strong and ever present. Our county seat boasts three Medal of Honor winners and scores of others decorated for valor. Now, I am the link to my son's generation that extends all the way back to the Civil War.

But now there is no service at the Baptist Church. The World War Two veterans are nearly gone and the Vietnam veterans aren't as visible. The composition of this country is changing and the links to the bravery and sacrifice of our past are fading. But not in my house. Not this year. We will stand among those who hold the line and stand in the gaps. We remember.

De Oppresso Libre.