This morning beginning around 10:00, Small Town will do what it always does for Memorial Day. We'll assemble a short parade with the marching band, color guard members from the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars, for you non-Americans), and some other people here and there. It's a solemn display with everyone practically silent. The band plays an occasional patriotic piece, but for most of it, a cadence keeps everyone in step. Sometimes there are Civil War reenactors marching in uniform, and today there will be an 87-year-old WW II veteran who is living in a nursing home against his will. He'll ride in the back of a convertible with his name plastered on the side.
The parade ends at a cemetery where the VFW has assembled a dais on a flatbed truck. We'll watch the traditional elements of the ceremony—laying of the wreaths by veterans, the National Anthem by the band, a 21-gun-salute, the Gettysburg Address read by an 8th-grade boy, and In Flanders Field read by an 8th-grade girl.
"Short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we live in Flanders field."
When this is read line by line without expression, it falls like an old balloon, but if it's read straight through as if the fallen boy soldier were lamenting his loss, it can go straight through to your heart.
Taps can do that, too, and in Small Town this morning, that will be played as it always is by Raymond Botdorf, a WW II veteran who is 94 years old and does his duty the same as he did when he went to war. (additional note: Mr. Botdorf didn't play this year, so I believe last year was his final year to participate). He was a big band trumpet player in the 30s and 40s, and this is the first year in a lot of years that he will not be playing with our big community band. It's finally too much for him, but he'll handle Taps for us today. Go here to listen to him playing at last year's ceremony.
"To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high."