Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lest We Forget

One of my favorite movies of all time is John Wayne's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In this movie there is a scene where Captain Biddle (Wayne) is retiring from the Cavalry. His troopers are assembled for review. After review, they present him with a present - a gold pocket watch with the inscription Lest We Forget.

I remember in elementary school, the early grades in East Burke, making the annual pilgrimage to the Woodmont cemetery in East Burke. We'd walk in single file from the school to the cemetery, cross country at first, from the school, through the field behind a couple of houses and then up the side of Vermont Route 114 a mile to the cemetery. There we would find a number of monuments marked by the seventh and eighth graders with small pieces of yarn taped to the top.

We would each in turn solemnly be escorted to one of these graves, the final resting place of veterans from the War Between the States, and the wars that followed, to place a small American Flag in remembrance and honor.

I vividly remember this. I remember how we were taught, by our teachers, by our families, to honor the sacrifices that were made. I remember the solemnity of our actions.

I wonder if students are still taught these things. I wonder if they still make these treks to render honors. I wonder if this is still as important as once it was.

I recently happened to stop by Woodmont. While quietly walking amongst the stones, in search of some that I had honored many years ago, I noted that only a few had tattered remnants of banners from the past.

Concerned, all I could do was to honor these heroes myself. Quietly I continued my walk, murmering a heartfelt thanks at each veterans grave I passed. And as I walked I wondered if perhaps my generation has not done its duty to pass on this reverence. I know that I have done my part. But I wonder of others, those who were not children of the Greatest Generation. What would they pass on to thiers? Failing to pass on this committment would be unexcusable. For to do so would be to let these sacrifices be forgotten. And then the dead would slowly fade away.
Lest we forget.

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