I 've debated whether I should publish a Veterans'/Remembrance Day post this year.
Those who have been with me since the beginning of my blog may recall that I created a series of posts based on the WWI letters of my Great Uncle, Lawrence Ross.
[Those posts can be viewed beginning here: http://wwwmorningsminion.blogspot.com/2009/11/camp-devens-1917-enlistment-remembrance.html. Scroll to the end of the post and click on 'newer posts' if you want to read each installment in succession.]
Memorial Day, observed at the end of May, was the time for marching bands and parades.
Veterans of former wars marched as a body, those who could fit into their uniforms wore them; All stepped out smartly, eyes straight ahead as though on the
parade ground of years ago.
Parades were followed by gatherings on the town green [or if it rained in the old Town Hall] where speeches were made, prayers offered and poems recited.
For me as a young person, the most awe inspiring moment was when Mr. Glenn Bishop stepped to the podium to read out the names of the men who had served their country in wars from the Revolution of 1776 to the present time. Mr. Bishop sang bass in the church choir and his speaking voice was rich and mellow.
He intoned each name with solemnity, pausing to give weight and dignity, to each his due.
The reading of this list, with special note given to those whose lives had been lost, was followed by a hush. Then the sound of 'Taps' floated over the crowd, the highest note held to a shivering sweetness.
November 11 was observed in a quieter manner. Schools were closed, as were the local bank and the post office.
It was a time of quiet reflection, holding the somber memory of loss for those who grieved still for friends or family members fallen in battle.
Others spoke of the remembered jubilation of Armistice Day--those days at the end of WWI and WWII when church bells pealed, horns blared, and men, women and children shouted their relief that war had ended.
My family hasn't run to soldiering.
My Dad, a married man when the US draft began in WWII, was rejected when his physical suggested the possibility of TB, a supposed condition for which he had been treated a few years earlier. He stayed home, working as a mechanic, while several of his boyhood pals marched off to bootcamp.
Two of my mother's cousins enlisted, Russell Brayton and Kent Hayes.
My grandfather, McKenzie Lewis registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 when he was thirty years old and again for WWII when his age is listed as 53.
A self-employed farmer, he was not called up for either war.
MY father's uncle, Napoleon Dejadon, aged 54, also an Addison county farmer, filled out his draft card for WWII.
Napoleon had served in the earliler war, inducted 18 September, 1917.
He rose to the rank of Corporal in Battery C of 302nd Field Artillary which saw overseas action from 16 July, 1918 until April 26, 1919.
While Napoleon was serving in France, his wife Ada, with his two younger brothers, Arthur and Charles, succumbed to the Spanish Flu in October, 1918. By the turn of the year, his sister Lena was also a victim. Family tradition states that word of these deaths was kept from Napoleon until he set foot again on US soil, whereupon a Red Cross worker gave him the dreadful news.
Napoleon's father, Gilbert, had been ill with the flu at the time of the other deaths in the family.
Within months of his soldier son's return, Gilbert too was dead, worn down with grief and bouts of pneumonia.
Jim's maternal uncle, Carl Hurd, joined the Army in 1942 and served in the Pacific.
Edwin Johnson, husband of Jim's Aunt Dorothy, served in the Army, enlisting in 1943.
The husband of Jim's Aunt Elizabeth, Donald Greene, served under General Patten and was among the forces who liberated Camp Buchenwald.
Our brother-in-law, Charles Leatherman served some of his Army duty at Ft Lee, Virginia during the late 1950's.
The Viet Nam conflict was heating up when my husband, Jim came of age. After much pondering, he registered as a non-combatant, expecting to serve in the medical corp should he be called up.
Jim's twin brother, Jerry enlisted in 1963 in the Navy, serving as sonar technician on the USS Samuel B. Roberts which was deployed to duty on the Saigon River
during the Viet Nam War.
My cousin, Clarence 'Jack' Giroux, served in the army 1957-1961.
His older brother, Eugene, may also have served.
Cousin Thomas "Tom" Archer shared this photo on Face Book today.
Tom served in the Army's Mountain Infantry, training in Hawaii and in the Italian Alps.
Jim's large tribe of cousins with their spouses and offsping have scattered across the US.
It may be that there are those in the military of whose service I am unaware.
My niece's husband, Thad Stowe, was deployed to Bosnia during that recent conflict.
And now, the most difficult part of this post to write.
Jim's younger cousin Gloria is well known to us from our Vermont years, and we have stayed in touch with her, although we moved away when her children were young.
Her two sons have had distinguished military careers.
Gloria and Pete's older son Brock Lowell, is a Staff Sergeant with 14 years service and 4 combat deployments to Iraq and Afganistan.
He is a member of the "Screaming Eagles."
Brock's younger brother Glen Lowell, with 11 years in the Army and a member of the Special Forces recently returned from an Afganistan tour--not, I think, his first.
Since his return state-side he and his girlfriend made plans to marry.
Our entire extended family was shocked and saddened to learn of Glenn's death yesterday.
In a twist of bitter irony, after surviving the rigors of combat, he was killed, not during any duty related to the military, but in a violent traffic accident near his base in Florida.
Words fail us--as they have always failed at such times.
For Glenn's extended family, for his fiancee and his many friends, Remembrance Day carries a heavy new burden.
So many wars. So many lives lost.
So many families changed forever.
We call them heros--those who enlist or are drafted, ready to defend and protect in peacetime or in war.
We hear lofty phrases such as 'he gave his life'--the cynic in me questions whether anyone 'lays down' life freely or with patriotic fervor.
Those who serve--and have always served--whether as combatants, medics, nurses, ambulance drivers, mechanics, or in whatever capacity their country assigns to them,
serve I suspect with personal hopes and dreams 'on hold' for the duration of their term.
Surely they serve knowing there is the possibility of an ultimate sacrifice--that of the very life they hold dear.
The mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, spouses and sweethearts, wait out that term of service, wait in times of war with fears that must be hidden beneath brave words and smiles of encouragement and hope.
Those of us who have been kept safe by the training, the preparedness, the grim skills and the deployment of our military, can only humble say
from the depths of our hearts.
The Star-Spangled Banner proudly displayed last summer at the home of
Pete and Gloria Lowell.