2000-06-03 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter

"...and now every year I sit on my porch and I watch the parade pass
before me. I think of my comrades how proudly they march; reliving those dreams of old glory. I think of those weary men so tired, sick, and sore; those weary old heroes of a forgotten war. And the young people ask, "what are they marching for?..." - from Waltzing Matilde, an Australian song .

Through out the Memorial Day's festivities, I think it was Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey who said it best when she seemed to echo the sentiment of the day, "this is what a community is all about!" For many, it seems, the essence of the Memorial Day holiday is nothing more that a three day weekend, an extra night to stay out late, and recover the next day, a time for gatherings with family and friends, or a day at the beach. Perhaps it's because we have enjoyed a certain amount of peace and freedom from the threat of any real major war, that the meaning of Memorial
Day has been so commercialized and reduced to nothing more than a day of one-day sales. Perhaps because the weather was not conducive for a day lost at the beach, for many, the meaning of Memorial Day was rediscovered, or even discovered for the first time.

How often do we on the last Friday of the month of May bid each other a
"Happy Memorial Day!" without ever realizing that it's not at all an
occasion to rejoice about. In fact, it's a day of mourning for those whom
have perished believing in the cause and call of freedom. The Daniel M.
O'Connell Post #272 of the American Legion, along with many local veterans, kept their memory alive with their parade down the boulevard in tribute to those who have fallen. Those who joined them were either too young to remember the meaning; or some who were perhaps too frail to walk the march, were not too old to ever forget.

I marched behind the ryhthmic Beach Channel High School Band, with the Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee, and I could not help but shiver at the beauty of veterans, many who fought in the Second World War; buddies, comrades who held on to each other for emotional comfort and physical strength, as they firmly clutched that star spangled banner in hand. As we marched, we passed by the rooming houses along the parade route that are "home" to many of our veterans. The passion in their applause, for their cause, as well as the despair for the lack of gratitude shown by our
government, could be seen and felt. On those rooming house splintered
porches were men in wheelchairs, many of whom spend, not just this day, but 365-days every year pondering the meaning and quality of their lives. This day is for them… and to those who gave their lives in their answer to the cause of freedom, which we live, revere, and enjoy more than any other country on the face of this earth, those men and women are forever memorialized when we remember them.

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