Filed Under (rural life) by admin on 05-27-2008


Lewisburg sponsors a very modest annual Memorial Day parade. It involves a handful of veterans from various wars, the high school marching band, and a bunch of emergency vehicles—fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances. The parade goes through the center of town, and turns toward a cemetery that sits between the high school and the University.

The parade draws a respectable audience, and many follow along to the cemetery where veterans perform a ceremony in honor of the soldiers who never became veterans. One or two people address the crowd, using a sound system that is woefully inadequate; most attendees, I’m sure, cannot make out what the speakers say. During the ceremony, one of the veterans places a wreath on the grave of a fallen soldier.

In the years that I’ve attended these parades and ceremonies, I have come away very sad. I think about soldiering: about putting yourself out there with the chance that you’ll never again enjoy the very things for which you’re fighting. I think about the absoluteness of death—of violent death in a foreign place, while doing something you almost certainly didn’t want to be doing in the first place. I think about the kids who go directly from high school to war to the grave. I think of the chronic uneasiness a parent must feel when a son or daughter ships out to a war zone—and the absolute despair of learning your progeny’s tour ended along with his or her life.

While memorializing our dead soldiers raises in me feelings of awe and respect… and intense gratefulness, my sadness emerges from the certainty that the killing and dying will continue long into the future. It arises from a mental review of history that reveals war as a cornerstone of civilization. It arises from the USA’s young two hundred thirty years peppered heavily with armed conflict.

While standing at the Memorial Day service, I heard in my mind the third verse of the song, “No Man’s Land” written by Eric Bogle about a 19 year old soldier who died in World War I:

I can’t help but wonder now, Willie McBride:
Do all those who lie here know just why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe this war would end all wars?
The suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
You see, Willie McBride, it’s all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

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1 Comment posted on "Memorial Day: a Slice of Rural Life"
Poppies for my Country Home | Cityslipper on January 13th, 2012 at 12:40 am #

[...] and I really wanted to have poppies in my yard—as a reminder of the song’s sentiment (see my previous blog entry for more about the song). A verse of the song describes a graveyard in France where WWI soldiers [...]


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