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Memorial Day 2017

May 31, 2017

 

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The day was cool. Rain clouds loomed at the edge of the cemetery as people parked their cars, pulling portable chairs out of trunks, and then walked slowly down the cemetery lane, past pine and oak trees toward the podium. Despite the weather, it was a good- sized crowd. The Boy Scout color guard twisted impatiently in formation waiting for their cue. As the mayor of Marine, Minnesota greeted us, the wind whipped across his microphone, creating what sounded like a muffled drum beat. After the greeting, came announcements. There would be no garbage collection on Monday…the crowd chuckled. We heard about the upcoming Fourth celebration (which would actually be on the 3rd) and the Art Sale to benefit the Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Team. The appropriate people were acknowledged and thanked.

Over sixty-five years ago – as a child – I was in this little town on Memorial Day – with my parents and two younger brothers. My father, great-grandfather, and my Dede, his second wife are buried in this place. Today I set my canvas chair down beside my youngest brother and his wife who have lived here for forty years. Over those years, Marine has seen many changes. But, for a lot of reasons, the town’s size (689 residents) and spirit have remained pretty much the same.

As the color guard advanced with the flags, there was a respectful silence – and a slight sprinkling from above. Hoods were pulled up and umbrellas appeared, but no-one ducked for cover. As a state senator gave a short speech and the fifth graders read the names of all the Marine citizens who died in service to their country, and taps was blown, rain periodically spit down on us. Nobody moved then either.

As I stood and sang the appropriate songs, there were moments when I began to tear up. There is something about these ceremonies which is both fragile and enduring. There is something enduring (and endearing) about watching a little girl in a sun-dress solemnly read the names of soldiers she does not know – and then sprint back to her place in line. There is something infinitely fragile that brought us all here today to share in this ritual. We remember those who gave their lives in service. But let us also remember that fragile spirit which united us here – and resolve to do everything we can to preserve it.

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