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A day to reflect on freedom's many faces

Let me tell you about the Memorial Day observance I missed and the one I attended.

The first was at Aripeka Cemetery, which due to a quirk of history — a drowned girl who needed to be buried in 1906 and a lack of dry ground in the coastal community — is actually located on the western shore of Hunter's Lake in Spring Hill.

A plot is reserved there for every resident of Aripeka. For the past three Memorial Days, American Legion Post 186 of Spring Hill has held a ceremony at the cemetery. And on Monday, for the first time, they read the names of the veterans buried there.

This, or something close to it, was my father's job at the Memorial Day observance in the Ohio town where I grew up. It was the day the rich executives and lawyers gave my dad — a schoolteacher and retired lieutenant colonel — due respect for his service. And, of course, even more respect for the soldiers who had lost their lives.

That's Memorial Day — naming those young people, their ranks and the wars in which they were killed. That's the least we can do. Single them out and remember them, every one.

Fran Findley, a vice president of the post's auxiliary, said she didn't know if any Aripeka residents had died in service, but she found a list of 30 veterans buried in the cemetery. Their names were read on Monday at her insistence, she said, partly because she remembered a Memorial Day column I'd written about my father a couple of years ago.

"It's a nice thing to do, paying respect to the veterans lying in their graves right where we were having the ceremony,'' she said. "It was beautiful.''

I had to take her word for it because, like most Americans, I was intent on squeezing as much fun as possible into the holiday. Plus, I misread the time of the ceremony in my own newspaper. By the time I arrived, all I saw were guys in uniform ready to drive a pickup full of folding chairs back to the post.

I got to visit the pretty, wooded cemetery by the lake. But I missed the playing of taps and the reading of the names.

On the drive back, I saw another Memorial Day observance that initially struck me as not quite right — a demonstration by a half-dozen antiwar protesters organized by Brian Moore, the onetime Socialist candidate for U.S. president.

I was surprised to see them because, now that the furor over Iraq has died down, I'd almost forgotten we're fighting a war, which I think people of all parties will agree is something that should never slip our minds. Moore pointed out that the U.S. recently passed an unwelcome milestone — 1,000 soldiers dead in Afghanistan as well as lots of civilians.

Will it turn out to be worth it?

Not all wars have been, of course, as one of the protesters reminded drivers with a sign that said "Peace is Patriotism.'' At least that's the way I interpreted it.

Another protester, George Boone of Zephyrhills, told me President Barack Obama isn't a socialist, as we've been hearing so much lately, but a fascist.

Well, if he was, I thought, you wouldn't be standing out here questioning his international policy. And, surely, some of the wars, and some of the names I should have been around to hear, had something to do with giving us that freedom.

A day to reflect on freedom's many faces 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 8:28pm]
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