Once again I spent a significant portion of my Memorial Day weekend honoring both the living veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Unlike last year, the vibe was quite a bit different this year due to threatening skies and an occasional rain shower. But the show went on at the eleventh annual Concert for a Random Soldier up in Long Neck, Delaware. I think this is about the eighth or ninth I’ve attended, and it seemed the threat of rain brought the attendance down a bit.
There have been several years where all the rows of picnic tables were full and another few dozen scattered around the perimeter (as Kim and I did for most of the show.) It was a shame that more weren’t there, although the silent auction still seemed to be a moneymaker.
It continues to be the case that the Chad Clifton Foundation is the presenting sponsor and the beneficiary is Guitars for Vets. Chad Clifton is the “random soldier” in question, as he was killed in Iraq in 2005.
With a lot of help, Chad’s mother Terri Clifton has spearheaded the event.
Obviously it’s a tribute to her fallen son, but she also intended the event to increase the awareness for living veterans and assist them as she could through the charity side of it. All of the food, shirts, and silent auction items were donated and the bands volunteered for the gig – many have done so for several consecutive years. (I’m going to cover the latter half of the program in an upcoming Weekend of Local Rock segment.)
But for seven hours the area around Long Neck was rocked and rolled by bands that ranged from acoustic cover artists to those performing the oldies to some heavy metal artists playing great original music. It’s certainly a different style of Memorial Day weekend tradition than the event Kim and I attended this morning.
The somber mood of this annual Wicomico County observance was matched this year by somber weather that forced the event indoors for the first time since I began attending it in 2005. The event program remained pretty much the same except for not being able to lower the colors (usually performed by members of a local JROTC unit) and the honor guard needing to step right outside the door to do the volley of arms.
As you may be able to tell from the photo, something I brought up last year still rings true: this event is being organized and coordinated by an ever-graying generation of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. For most of the last decade, our fighting forces have been the subject of budget cuts, accusations of barbaric acts from the left side of the aisle, and social engineering – all while seeing their mission change on the capricious whims of those in office. There’s still a generation that supports the military, and I don’t think we’re to the nadir of respect for the military those who returned from Vietnam endured.
Yet it’s worth considering that the clear majority of the 191 names on Wicomico County’s list of war fatalities were killed during World War II, and there are precious few of their brothers in arms remaining among us. (If you signed up the day after Pearl Harbor on your eighteenth birthday, you would be 92 years old now.) Korean War veterans are perhaps a decade younger, and those who served in Vietnam are mostly at retirement age. While the sacrifice is a burden to bear for any family that lost a loved one in combat, the simple fact that the death toll from Vietnam is roughly eightfold that of the engagements since means Memorial Day is a little less in mind for the bulk of Americans, even as much as some of us try to goad people into remembering.
So it may be that the ranks of those who are asked to stand because they lost a family member in combat get a little smaller year by year, but those who have gone generations before still deserve to be remembered as if it were yesterday. Let’s remember that for next year.