It's all about priorities.
On Memorial Day in Washington, MO, several hundred people gathered at Rennick Riverfront Park to remember the sacrifices made by members of our nation's military past and present.
On Memorial Day in Beverly, MA, the Memorial Day parade--an annual tradition dating back to the civil war--was cancelled, due to lack of interest. The city leaders did, however, commit $31,000 of taxpayer money to put on a parade for a 19 year-old American Idol finalist.
Under the heat of national criticism, the city of Beverly is, predictably, offering all kinds of excuses. Among them are:
The age of the veterans made it hard for them to march. (Really? So in this community we can manage to take aging veterans with medical conditions all the way to Washington D.C. to see their memorials--but Beverly couldn't figure out what to do to get them down a city street? Couldn't they have ridden on a decorated float? Couldn't attendants have pushed their wheelchairs? Couldn't others have joined in the parade to give tribute to the veterans?)
Hardly anyone was showing up. (Just curious how much effort and funds the city put into publicizing the event?)
The city of Beverly, with a population of just under 40,000 people, has deep ties to American military history. The Hannah, first warship commissioned in the US back in 1775, shipped off from Beverly's port.
Beverly is a prosperous community with median household income and percentage of residents who are college educated well above the national average. It is home to prestigious private schools; the average price of a house is $370,000.
Yet somehow these folks cannot find a way to keep a 100+ year tradition going? If people are not showing up to a Memorial Day parade, it is because it is not a priority to them. That is a sad statement not just for Beverly, but for many places across the United States where the same apathy prevails.
It is true that the number of surviving World War II veterans is dwindling. Veterans of Korea and Vietnam are also aging. But is that an excuse to ever forget their sacrifices and what they have meant for the freedom of this country?
Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg of those who perished on the battlefield, "The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but we can never forget what they did here."
We can never forget what the nation's military did in the Civil War, nor the American Revolution, nor the two World Wars, nor Korea, nor Vietnam--nor any time a brave American has been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause greater than him or herself. Nor can we forget what our members of our nation's military have done over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else in the world they have answered the all of duty.
We must remember them not just because they are worthy of it for the sacrifices they have made for our freedom. We must remember them because those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.
Again citing Lincoln at Gettysburg: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
NOTE: There are two ways in which area residents can help support our nation's veterans.
FRANKLIN COUNTY HONOR FLIGHT: This organization pays for veterans to be flown to the nation's capital to see the monuments erected in their honor. Many World War II veterans have taken the trip, now the organization is also serving Korean War veterans. Honor Flight is calling out to Korean War veterans who
would like to make the trip. They also are in need of donations to help fund them. For more information go to FranklinCountyHonorFlight.org.
KOREAN WAR CEASE FIRE CELEBRATION: A ceremony will be held in Krog Park in Washington on July 27 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire. Korean War veterans will be honored with medals on this day. Among the speakers will be US Congressman Blaine Luektemeier. A chapter of Korean War veterans is being formed in the Washington area, as well. For more information, contact your local VFW or American Legion post.