Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day randomness

I avoided Memorial Day and Veterans' Day observances until a few years ago, partly to keep what I call "the monsters" in the closet. I still take a pass on Veterans' Day, thanks to the TN. Unless the weather is exceptionally nice for November, outdoor activities like that are high-risk.

This year, rain forced the activities indoors to the town hall auditorium. It's long on atmosphere (completed 1876) and short on acoustics and sight-lines, so I only heard the speakers who knew how to project.

First, a question for more recent veterans. When I was in the Navy, one was uncovered under a deck or in a building, except in formation for especially fancy occasions. One never saluted under a deck or in a building, and one did not salute in formation: the petty officer in charge did that. I don't know if it's new regs, or just that we were pretending we were outdoors, but all the serving personnel and nearly all the veterans were covered, and everyone was throwing salutes all the damned time. Grump.

An aside is that Memorial Day observances are a great place to see how many variations there are to the hand salute. I don't think any two services do it exactly the same way.

Good news was that because of being indoors, we dispensed with the musket salute. Also they sent the high school band home and kept the professional band, whose bugler did not improvise when she played taps. All of this kept the saluting time suitably brief.

They did a pretend wreath laying ceremony, since we couldn't go to the cemetery. People in newer towns miss little details like having a wreath for what we ought to call the Seven Years' War. It would be possible to go further back than that. I believe the first organised naval-military campaign that included locals was the English attack on Quebec in 1711. It was a fucking disaster for the English and so produced a lovely crop of casualties.

Since I began going, I've observed that the monsters aren't entirely missing from occasions like this. But on Memorial Day, they are likely to visit anyway. It's better to be in the company of people who don't need this sort of thing explained. There were a lot of veterans in the hall, and I think all of us had that replay reel running in our heads.

Just before the ceremony began, a good friend came over. We exchanged greetings, and he sat near me. I'm never really aware of how my face can tell tales, just like anyone else's. This particular friend is also fairly insightful. Presumably, he could see that my reel was running, and that my thoughts were pretty far away. He waited until the ceremony was over before saying anything more, and for that I thank him.

I didn't keep score to figure the percentage of veterans of my time who were named in the roll call of local veterans who had died this past year. The figure has been over 25 percent for a couple of years, and this year the total was distressingly large. One of the speakers I could hear commented that most Americans today have no direct contact with veterans or the experience of war. Americans do seem to assume that the military will always be there, he said. What happens when all of us are gone? Will it mean a stronger commitment to peace, or will it mean the nation adopts a more cavalier attitude toward going to war? There's a troubling takeaway from this observance.

Peace to all my absent friends: those who did not make it, and those who came back broken beyond repair.