The last time I attended a Memorial Day Ceremony in my hometown of Lodi, Ohio, was probably when I was in High School marching band. That would have been over 30 years ago. I don’t remember what I thought or felt at that time. I probably was hot and tired from marching up Bank Street with a trombone. I can almost guarantee that I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what we were doing or who we were honoring.
Fast forward 30 plus years and thanks to the addition of social media, I cannot get away from understanding what we are doing or who we are honoring. And I am grateful. Because of the sacrifice men and women made during the Revolutionary War, we live in a country that is governed not by a monarchy but by representatives elected by the people. Because of the sacrifice made by men and women during the Civil War, we live in the United States of America. Because of the sacrifice made by men and women during the Great Wars (WWI and WWII), the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, we can live and worship and pursue happiness without fear of persecution. Because of the sacrifice men and women are currently making during this war on terror, we are free to go about our lives in safety and security. Again, I am truly grateful.
The ceremony at the cemetery was a somber one. It began with the Star Spangled Banner being played by the Cloverleaf Marching Band (I think junior high, because they students looked really young!). Then we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Next, Pastor Pamela Sayre from the Chippewa Lake Methodist Church led us in prayer, lifting up the families of those who had lost loved ones in war.
Mike Mace was the Keynote Speaker. He reminded us that this is a time to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, in the services of their country. Veterans Day is to give honor to all who served or are serving in our military. Medina County Commissioner, Pat Geissman, gave a brief overview of history of Memorial Day, which started out as Decoration Day in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. Mike Landis from the Lodi Post of the American Legion read the poem “Flanders Field” and the names of the Lodi Chapter American Legionaries who are now deceased. Then the Three Gun Volley (known also as the 21 Gun Salute) and the playing of Taps ended the ceremony at the cemetery.
While we were there, waiting for the parade participants to enter the Woodlawn Cemetery, I saw my best friend from childhood, Stephanie. She was there with her two grown daughters. She said that she hadn’t been to the Lodi parade in several years either, as her husband, a police officer, had previously participated in Memorial Day Ceremonies in the towns where he served. This year, however, she decided to attend Lodi’s event. Her father, Raymond Buttolph, who was a Vietnam Veteran, passed away several years ago and is laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. I can only imagine how a day like today affects her. While he didn’t die in the war, she and her family lost him all too soon. Just being there, watching her, gave me a tiny glimpse of what the toll of war can take on the ones who give their all and the ones left behind.
As I watched the parade and the ceremony that was assembled today, on May 30, 2016, I thought about the children there. I wonder if they will grasp that the freedom they have is because of people who long ago and unfortunately very recently, gave the last full measure of their devotion to protect them. I wonder if I can fully grasp it, too.