The last time I did this combo was two years ago and I called it “A weekend to remember.” This rendition will be somewhat longer but recount the same two events two years on: the 8th annual Concert for a Random Soldier at the American Legion Post 28 outside Millsboro, Delaware and the annual Memorial Day celebration here in Salisbury at the Civic Center – I believe this is the eleventh under its current format and location.
It was a little windy in Delaware yesterday, but the show went on.
I missed last year’s CRS but in many respects it was like embracing a long-lost friend: several of the acts play the event year after year, and the organizer who tirelessly puts it all together is Terri Clifton, on behalf of the Chad Clifton Foundation – named for her son who was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Of course, she has a lot of support in the effort. This year I noticed the presence of the state’s Vietnam Veterans Association in a much more prominent role.
As always, since it’s a Concert for a Random Soldier, nearly a dozen bands and acoustical acts played in the event. I’ll highlight them in a future Weekend of Local Rock post, but this shot was taken as the Joey Fulkerson Trio was playing.
But there were other things going on as well. It’s hard for me to resist a car show, with this black 1959 Chevy El Camino grabbing second overall. It won the monoblogue prize as my favorite, though.
A close runner-up in both instances (third overall) was this Chevy, which as my memory serves is a 1962 model.
It’s rare that you see a bumper sticker on these classics, but the owner here felt he had to make an exception.
That was pretty much the extent of the political, although one musician noted that a government which wasn’t doing anything could learn the example of these people, who were doing something. That something was supporting Guitars for Vets, which uses music as therapy for returning veterans who need the help.
Not only were the bands donating their time, so were the people making the food.
It takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to make this sort of things work, even to the extent of decorating the tables.
But sometimes you just have to give it up for divine assistance with a near-perfect day – certainly not blazing hot and humid like our Memorial Day weekends are generally known for. I just liked this picture.
Those who gathered this morning at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center this morning probably also appreciated the cooler weather, although the gathering didn’t seem to be any more or less attended than usual.
Upon arriving, I heard the mournful sound of bagpipes and saw a brief practice going on.
There is a point to be made with that, trust me.
But in general, the ceremony remained within its familiar ritual, down to the same donation box. It wasn’t very full when I peeked in, though.
As always, the master of ceremonies was Tony Sarbanes, an Army veteran and former County Council member. Sitting beside him were members of each service branch who would contribute with the recitation of their branch prayers and Ed Tattersall, who annually reads the names of the 190 Wicomico County men who have been killed in action since World War I.
Sarbanes stepped aside for a invocation by the Rev. Harvey Dixon and singing of the National Anthem by Ronny Cheezum before leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the colors were lowered by the Wicomico High School JROTC.
With SM Chief Dave Suiter ringing the Red Knights Memorial Bell before the list from each conflict, Sgt. Tattersall read off all 190 names.
While those who read the branch prayers and conducted the ceremony tended to be of the Vietnam generation and older, there were signs that youth was beginning to be served. As the wreath was being laid, bagpiper Matthew Wallace was joined for the first time by his son Payton.
After the Wicomico County Sheriff’s detail presented the volley of arms, the event was concluded with the playing of Taps and a benediction. John Jochum has played Taps in this ceremony before but I didn’t recall Tara Bramble having done so.
So it appears more of the next generation are taking an interest, which is an encouraging sign. Another is the media attention, as I wasn’t the only media there.
Granted, those I ran into over the weekend were probably but a few of the Americans most interested in honoring those who gave of themselves so we can have the freedom we enjoy today. This isn’t the time to debate whether we are really more or less free than we have been previously, or whether the most recent sacrifices have been in vain. We have 360 or so other days for that.
But many millions more look at the Memorial Day weekend as a gateway to summer, bolstered by the fact that a few decades ago the federal government changed the date from May 30 to the last Monday in May. (Just like Independence Day, this year that date would fall on a Thursday.) Great for tourism and commercialization of the holiday, but bad for remembering the actual sacrifices of those who have fallen.