Welcome to the May 2014 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, NH.
Memorial Day brings a New England community together like no other holiday…
Although the gathering on the town green or center on Memorial Day morning and the subsequent march to the cemetery are annual events to honor casualties and participants in past and present day wars, the occasion is somehow also a celebration of survival. The leaves are finally on the trees again, the grass is green, and the annual appearance of old uniforms from long-ago times remind us we’ve made it through another long winter.
Maybe the admiral is now too weak to march all the way to the cemetery, but he still looks magnificent in his uniform, sitting in one of the old open cars carrying gold star mothers and other old veterans. There are the Johnsons back from their winter in Florida—and could that handsome young man in a marine uniform be their little grandson, Tommie? It’s comforting to chat with the women at the food counter (hot dogs mostly), the high school band sounds better than ever, we’re suitably inspired by the minister’s speech at the cemetery, and for so many years I was always so happy to see our postman dressed as a sailor.
Alas, I can no longer quite fit into the uniform I once wore as a member of the 3rd Armored Division in Germany during the mid-1950s. But I wouldn’t for the world miss marching on Memorial Day. So I spruce up in a clean white shirt, tie, and blue blazer. Some of the other veterans around me are not in uniform either. However, they are all friends and neighbors so I don’t need to see battle ribbons to know who experienced the horrors of war, faced death, and lost friends. When people along our route to the cemetery break out in applause as we march by, I know it’s truly for them. I was a peacetime soldier.
As always, I’m looking forward to once again participating in this year’s Memorial Day parade and festivities. But I must confess that it’s the only day in the year when I wish, deep down, that I was one of those who’d gone to war; that the applause could be for me, too.