By Ray Carr
I have vivid memories of Decoration Day as a young kid.
We would meet up at the bowling alley parking lot. I’m nervous about my Boy Scout uniform. Some is new, some is handed down from cousins. I have never had a complete uniform and my shoes hurt. My cap has a small bill, without much to block the sun. Sweat is running down my back. I am ten years old.
When it’s time to march, we fall into a column with the flag first and foremost, and our Den Mother calls out cadence. We step off for the three block march to the cemetery.
We have to cross Highway 130 at the top of the river hill. As usual, the town cop and sheriff have the traffic stopped. We march across the highway onto the cemetery lane. We can hear the band playing Stars and Stripes Forever. I feel proud.
We march to our assigned spaces across from the military honor guard and flags. Once there, we salute the flag and stand at ease. The band starts playing the National Anthem, everyone’s attention is focused on the flag. People remove their caps and hats, and someone starts singing as others join in. Pretty soon they sing the final words: “and the home of the brave.” Everyone cheers.
Then a man in a military uniform speaks about life, and the many heroes both living and dead from our area. I’ve seen these living heroes he’s talking about around town – some are missing limbs, or have eyes with patches. Some get around in wheelchairs.
On this day, some of these and plenty more are there wearing their WWII and Korean-era uniforms. I seem to recall one or two from the Spanish-American War and several from WWI. I stand with these men and look at them in awe. I was just old enough to understand a little of what they did. To realize these men and others like them walked and ran into danger. Some were killed or wounded. These men around me had fought everywhere in the world for the freedoms I have here in America.
I kept thinking about these men when the honor guard presents arms and volleys using their Model 1903 Springfields. Then they play Taps near the flag on the cemetery mound. It still makes my eyes moist hearing it in my mind sixty years later.
It’s over, we are dismissed. I hear my school bus driver talking to one of the teachers about a bad day in Italy. Pretty soon I meet my Mom and Dad, and we walk through the cemetery stopping at graves of family and friends as we leave flowers.
Mom and Dad are talking softly, Mom is carrying my baby brother. Dad has my little sister. My older siblings are staying with friends. I follow along thinking about everything I have seen.
My Dad is very quiet as we drive home. Mom fixes some lunch and the Indy 500 race starts at 11:00. Thinking back, I still remember Tony Hulman saying “Start your engines!”
We go on with life but we never forget.