The rain came in just as the last parade entry glided by the second-row spot Bill and I had earlier staked out in front of Katie Lou’s restaurant in Senoia. Not a thunderstorm as Weather Tracker had warned, first just a drizzle followed by a soft and steady downfall. Most of the merchants who had set up their colorful displays along Main Street had time to get their goods covered or packed up with no damage done. The entire day had been just about perfect.
Resting on the back screened porch in the late afternoon, I drowsed to the tune of rain and birdsong as I did a slow motion replay of the Memorial Day events. Once an Army brat and Army wife, it was a bittersweet day for me, thinking of family and friends who had given much of their lives serving and protecting this country we pledge to love so much. As I stood with my hand over my heart, listening to a choir of voices sing the Pledge of Allegiance, I reflected on the words, “One nation under God… indivisible… with liberty and justice for all.” I don’t think I have heard anything quite so lovely in a very long time, and I don’t think I have been struck with the meaning of that pledge, with those powerful words, in a very long time. Later, the haunting refrain of bagpipes echoed the loss many were feeling on this day of remembrance.
One of my favorite things about this special day in Senoia is recognizing so many of the volunteers, the workers who make this great event happen every year—like Gail Downs and Suzanne Helfman, who for months have worked tirelessly with others in the Downtown Development Association to see that every vendor was situated, every parade entry was assigned a spot, that veterans and the Army Band, speakers and performers are all given their instructions. The Pengalis. The Lyons. Whew! Big job. The first and last person I spotted today and who handed me ice cold water—compliments of the Methodist Church—each time I passed his cart was Ralph Arnold. We could not have an event without Ralph’s sunny self!
My favorite booth, of course, is mounted and manned by the Senoia Area Historical Society. Another excellent job again this year. So respectful. So dignified. I am proud to be associated with the Museum and with Maureen Schuyler, the director, who is the most hands-on leader an organization has ever had. The Memory Board created was lovely, decorated with the red poppies which are a vivid reminder of the blood shed on so many battlefields since the Civil War when Decoration Day was the forerunner of Memorial Day; the flower was adopted as a symbol after WWI.
Thanks to Jim Schuyler, Bob and Janis Anderson, Susan and Frank Zeidler, Nancy, Carol, Jan, Doug, Lori, Dub, Mary, Leslie, Jan and so many others who lent their hands and backs to this interactive display and to the great Lemonade Stand where veterans were given free cups of the iced-cold refreshment made from a “secret” Senoia recipe. Four years ago, I would not have been able to name two people on the streets, now I had waves, handshakes and hugs from more folks than you could shake a stick at. Feels good. Others that I have come to care deeply about and who were instrumental in making Memorial Day so grand were Laura and Rick Reynolds at the Veranda Inn. They opened their doors to not only author and guest speaker, Retired Col. Angela Odom accompanied by her son Ryan, but to the entire Army Band made up mainly of reservists out of Marietta, Ga. Col Odom and Ryan arrived early, the band came later, but all enjoyed lunch provided by Chic Fil A . Col. Odom spoke briefly to them, thanking them for their service while sharing advice from her 26 year career. She performed her duties today as one would have expected, with dignity and honor towards those she came to salute; her fallen comrades.
Her speech relayed some startling information worth sharing. Did you realize that after WWII just about everyone in this country was related to someone who served in the service, in the war. Today, because only 1% of the population are on active duty, protecting and fighting for our safety and freedom, because only 7% of all alive today EVER served, there are many, many people who do not know anyone personally who serves or has served in the Armed Forces. There are also another 1% who participate in the reserve, and I am extremely grateful they are there to bolster the ranks in times of National disasters as well as conflicts worldwide.
Tonight, as various news channels reported on the day’s solemn events, showing many touching moments in cemeteries around our country, some correspondents question whether people today even understand what Memorial Day is all about. Some suggest that people just see it as the kick-off for summer; a chance for a long weekend of fun in the sun with the family. But others, and I am one of those, believe that Memorial Day is our most sacred holiday outside of the religious ones we may share. It is good to be with family and friends, to eat, play games, and rest from work, but we must never, ever view this sacred day as simply a vacation. We must never ever fail to stop, to think, to remember, to honor and give thanks to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Bill and I drove our golf cart down to Merrimac Lake at about dark thirty; last light was to be at 9:12 p.m. And right on time the glorious bursts of color blossomed above the pine trees. A most magnificent expression of this solemn, highly emotional day in our Nation’s annual calendar. God Bless America and God Bless those who serve. Amen.
We cherish too, the Poppy red that grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies,
That blood of heroes never dies.
~ by Moina Michael 1915