A weekend to remember

Some people go to a Memorial Day weekend picnic, others head to take advantage of sales or see a movie, and judging by the traffic heading westbound on U.S. 50 today a LOT of people spent their Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City. But I march to a somewhat different drummer and chose to honor those for whom the event was created in both traditional and nontraditional ways.

This is where Kim and I spent a large portion of our Sunday, for a good pair of causes.

No, it wasn’t your traditional celebration. I’m going to talk about the music itself in a future post, but the Concert for a Random Soldier up in Millsboro, Delaware featured other events as well. This classic Dodge pickup from 1941 was the winner of the modest car show held there.

This was a place where veterans could get together and comfort each other. The concert began as a method for one set of grieving parents to heal and honor their son’s memory six years ago and has grown from a small gathering to an annual event which is getting more coverage in the local media. One local radio station did a remote from there.

Terri Clifton (left in photo) is the face behind the Concert for a Random Soldier, but she doesn’t do it alone. There are literally dozens of volunteers, supporters, and people who find a way to help out behind the scenes. Consider the musicians who create the draw for the concert, which featured seven bands and a number of various acoustic acts this year – many of those have performed at the show several years in a row (for free) because they felt the need to help out.

Add in the vendors who provide the food and secure what turns out to be a very pleasant and visible venue along Delaware Route 24, and it’s obvious that pulling off an event like this doesn’t come that easily.

Without getting too much into the musical content (since I’m saving that for another post) it’s fair to say that there was something to appeal to most veterans, whether Vietnam-era or those who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I noticed that the crowd was considerably less gray as the day wore on since the more modern acts were scheduled last.

But regardless of who was playing, the theme was the same: we support our troops.

It’s something which seems to be lost nowadays simply because we’re several generations removed from an all-out war effort. You can ask those who grew up in the World War II era about rationing and war bonds, but that generation is slipping away quickly. A world which has recently seen the passing of the last veterans of the “Great War” (what we call World War I) is perhaps thirty years removed from that same disappearance of World War II veterans and maybe two generations from losing our Korean soldiers.

By the time we got to Vietnam, the attitudes changed, and many of those Baby Boomers who didn’t get drafted into that war were the ones protesting it. Practically no one likes war, but there are those who chose to fight and paid for that decision with their lives.

Most of us do what’s politically correct, festooning our abodes with red, white, and blue – besides, it comes in handy for the next big holiday as well. And don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Memorial Day weekend is a big tourist attraction for Ocean City. But I believe we are losing sight of the sacrifices made by those in the military because so few of us are affected anymore. Less than 1 percent of the general population is now active-duty military, so we don’t have the streets with houses with blue or gold stars in the windows as we did nearly 70 years ago. (Yes, the next Pearl Harbor Day will be the 70th anniversary one. That’s why we’re losing World War II veterans at a increasing pace, since they’re now in their eighties or nineties for the most part.)

And I saw a few of those veterans at the more traditional celebration Wicomico County holds at the Civic Center each Memorial Day.

It actually was a very pretty day for a service.

And it appeared to me, since I’ve covered a few of these in a row, that the crowd was roughly the same as it had been in previous years.

And the veterans were still there to honor their individual service branches.

But there were some subtle changes to the program. An addition was giving certificates of recognition to two people: the widow of a Veterans Memorial board member and a retiring JROTC coordinator. The students caught a break as well, as they were released from flag duty once the colors were lowered. No longer did they have to stand at attention throughout the ceremony and risk passing out from the heat and humidity as a few have over the years.

Also, instead of having veterans recognized by branch of service, they were recognized by conflict. It pointed up the dwindling number of World War II and Korean veterans who could get to the program.

Even the bell ringer was new. But, the one thing which didn’t change was the number of names read – it stayed the same as last year as no one from Wicomico County lost their lives in an active war zone.

While there are many who are earnest in their desire to see us no longer need to fight wars, the stark reality is that we will always have enemies among our brother nations. We’ve become close friends with our first enemy as well as those we fought against in subsequent wars, but one never quite knows where the next threat is coming from and it’s a reminder we need to be ready.

The events of this weekend make me proud to know there are those among us who respect the fact freedom and liberty are worth dying for.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

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