And climb the stairs to the beach...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Morning Folks July 1, 2010

It is a gorgeous day here on Cape Cod this morning, the first day of our Independence Day weekeind. The sun is shining, it's in the 60s and headed up to the 80s. Really a perfect summer day on the Cape and I am feeling blessed to be here, for sure.

On Wednesday, Ed's sister Kathy and I went to see the US Marine Battle Color Ceremony which was dedicated to the men and women from Cape Cod who lost their lives in the war. I sometimes feel like things military evoke confusing emotions from this child of the sixties. But the truth is, no matter how I may feel about any particular war politically, the sacrifice that our service men and women make on our behalf and the respect and ceremony that the military gives their own, is well-deserved and for me always moving. It brings back that homegrown patriotism that resides in the deepest part of my being.

At the ceremony yesterday, locally known former State Police Sergeant, and also former Marine, Dan Clark, began by singing some of those old patriotic songs we learned as kids, God Bless America, America the Beautiful, It's a Grand Old Flag, and so forth.

And although I have seen it done before, it's always moving when each veteran who served is asked to stand as the official songs from each of the branches of service are sung, including the Merchant Marines' song Heave Ho, My Lads, Heave Ho. It was particularly fitting for that song on the Cape, as there are so many ties to the sea here and there were a good number of Merchant Marine vets who stood. A Coast Guard jet flew low over the crowd on cue having come from the Coast Guard base nearby, another group well represented in the audience of several thousand when he sang Semper Paratis, the Coast Guard Hymn. Click here and turn up your speakers

There was a group of chairs reserved for the Gold Star Families, those who had lost family members in the war. The largest contingent from a young Marine who lost his life just about a year ago who lived in the town the ceremony took place. There were 10 of these young people who lost their lives, 3 of them were from the small community of Mashpee alone. Their photos were displayed nearby. The families were greeted before the ceremony by many a uniformed Marine, who came to speak to them individually or in small groups of 2 or 3. Some offered a salute, some a handshake and some were offered hugs. From high in the bleachers these Marines looked like big, strong muscular men. Up close, later, they were really just boys and I wondered how the mothers felt as they embraced these broad shouldered young men, so like the sons they lost.

The Drum and Bugle Corps performed first and it was fabulous. They wore bright red jackets, white hats and trousers and the late day sun, low in the sky, bounced off their brass buttons, belt buckles and instruments. They did complicated steps and formations all the while playing their instruments. It was really well done and fun to watch.
I kept my eye on the two playing the cymbals. They made their way around the band, inserting themselves in their assigned spots in a kind of slow motion, almost as if they were sliding into position. Everything synchronized as they did their own choreography apart from the rest of the group.

After the Drum and Bugle Corps performed, the Silent Drill Platoon took the field. Thousands of people hushed and listened to the sound of  hands grasping rifles, with bayonettes attached, making a unique metalic 'clacking' and rattling followed by the dull thud of white gloves slapping their thighs, all in unison creating rythms that were almost melodical; many sounding like one, a choirmaster's dream. I couldn't take my eyes off them as they twirled these guns in front of them, shouldering them, presenting them, firmly setting butt-ends on ground, pushing forward, pulling back, aligned with their legs, at times lifting the guns by one end and flinging them in the air to each other, catching them, twirling them, shouldering them and returning to parade rest, all done with such precision and timing in the hushed late afternoon. The sounds and the sight so foreign to me, but fascinating and thrilling to watch. 

Near the end of their performance, the Drill leader of the group walked past the line of Marines in review and stopped at one Marine. He began a slow and almost surreal sequence of moves, at times seeming to caress this weapon, before he tossed it to the Drill leader. The Leader caught the rifle and put on his own display, slowly and meticulously repeating what the Marine had done and then proceeded to fling it behind his back and over his head and back to the Marine. Then he made his way down the row and repeated it with another Marine, only more impressive this time. The Marines all stiff at attention, even when in motion. I loved it!

Finally, the Color Guard came in, and the Drum and Bugle Corps played the National Anthem. Then, the family members lined up as the entire detachment, Drum and Bugle Corps, Drill Team and Color Guard, paraded in front of these families for review.
 It brought tears to my eyes as family members stood together, some at attention, some holding hands, some with their arms around each other.
So sad. So Sad.  

Sadness was a big part of what I felt. But, there was a strong feeling of Patriotism and pride as well. Individual sadness, but collective pride. I don't know if it was the huge flag that flew overhead, the uniforms, the music, the Marines or what, but I was left with a feeling that it's time to be proud to be an American again.

There were many, many people from my Dad's generation in the bleachers around us. Dad was the one in my life who taught me about Patriotism, and about standing up for Old Glory and hand on my heart when she passes by. Not many from my generation or younger do that anymore. But at this venue, everyone did. And many openly wept when early in the programThe Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung by the State Trooper, the audience joining in. Some wiped away tears when they played taps at the end of the ceremony, something that moved me as well. And some welled up when the keynote speaker, a woman officer, a graduate of Dennis Yarmouth High School, upon whose field this all took place, spoke about her tour in Afgahnistan and how her mother had sent her a bottle of sand from one of her own Yarmouth beaches when she complained about the sand over there. She spoke about meeting a reporter from Washington DC who had been embedded with the troops and had been on a plane as it flew the body of a fallen soldier home, a soldier who was from the Cape. And I found myself deeply touched when she closed  her remarks by asking the audience to remember these fallen men and women from Cape Cod and the sacrifice they made for our country the next time we heard the cry of a sea gull, or heard the ocean waves or smelled beach roses.

I think that's what I'll be doing today.

Have a wonderful 4th! And God Bless America.

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