Nov 12, 2009 Herm Card Uncategorized
One of the really great aspects of being the City Eagle’s “street reporter” is that I have the opportunity to share in many meaningful celebrations in the Syracuse area. Last week on three separate days, I had the chance to share in celebrations that honored our area’s military veterans on three distinct levels.
Day 1 — Saturday, November 7 — South Salina Street
On Saturday, the annual Onondaga County Veterans Parade kicked off near Clinton Square at noon. Typically, it was comprised of numerous veterans groups — American Legion, VFW, Korean War Veterans, Disabled American Veterans and others. True to tradition, there were high school marching bands, active duty military personnel, uniformed law enforcement and firefighters and elected officials. There was the flyover in missing man formation, jets appearing from nowhere, roaring south above Salina Street and disappearing.
And there were the people — the crowd lining the street several deep, the people who came out on a gorgeous autumn day to cheer and to wave small American Flags, the people who came out to a parade to spend an hour saying thank you to men and women who were not looking to be thanked. There was the man who ran from vehicle to vehicle to shake hands and say thank you. There were the veterans in the crowd wearing parts of uniforms long since packed away, saluting at every passing of the colors. There were men and women and children — old and young — grasping photos of loved ones that had served, many who had given that “last full measure of devotion” for their country.
It was pretty much the same as it is every year — except that every year there are more to be remembered, more to be mourned, more to be honored, more to be thanked. And it seems that every year, there are more who realize the rightness of doing so, and turn out as they did on Saturday — to wave a flag and say thank you in the glorious sunshine.
Day 2 — Tuesday, November 10 — Seymour Dual Language Academy
At Seymour Dual language Academy, veterans with a connection to the school were honored at an assembly in the school’s gym/auditorium/cafeteria. It was noisy — typical of an assembly in any elementary school; noise made by excited students who were taking part in what one called “a pretty cool thing.”
In keeping with its status as a dual language school, and recognizing the diversity of the military, students honored the veterans through song and tribute in English and in Spanish.
They sang the patriotic songs that kids should sing and cheered loud and long in standing ovations as the veterans and color guard from Dunbar American Legion Post 1642 entered and left the room. Students, likely unaware of the significance of the gesture, saluted smartly, knowing only that it was a sign of respect for the honorees.
A slide show listed the names of veterans and active military personnel connected to the school through students and staff members. All the veterans were honored with certificates thanking them for their service. Some of the veterans who attended were parents of teachers or students and received their certificates from their loved ones in poignant moments of family closeness.
And afterwards, as the veterans sat for a photo, they chatted among themselves. They were men of varied ethnicity and varied generations, who had served in several branches of the service in several wars. They were men who seemingly had little in common except they were all able to lay claim to the title of “veteran,” and shared the common bond of having earned well the thanks they had just received from young people who, we can hope, will not have to share that same bond.
Day 3 — November 11 — Veterans’ Day — Onondaga County War Memorial
In a ceremony timed to conclude at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (the ending of WW I and the origin of “Armistice Day”) Onondaga County honored its veterans. With respectfully muted pomp and circumstance, the praise and thanks due our servicemen and servicewomen was rendered. The Memorial Gallery was filled and extra seating was provided in the hallways. The requisite assembly of elected officials, many of them veterans, was on hand, but checked their political agendas at the door.
All the correct words were spoken, all the correct honors bestowed. Prayers were offered, wreaths laid. Patriotic songs were sung and tributes paid. Diversity was honored on all levels — individuals from various religious, ethnic, gender, age, and racial backgrounds honored veterans who reflect the same diversity. Special recognition was rendered to those missing in action.
Community leaders signed a “military covenant” guaranteeing their support to those who serve, a gesture, one would hope, that is merely symbolic of the support already being given.
As the echoes of the 21 gun salute fired by members of Manlius VFW Post 7812 faded through downtown streets, the eternally haunting notes of “Taps,” played by two buglers, filled the halls of the War Memorial.
And after the benediction, veterans and those who had come to honor them, slowly filed through the galleries that honor their service, then walked out into the crisp air to reflect on the words and honors and salutes and thanks that had just been so fittingly rendered.
And I reflected, as well. I reflected on these three days in November, and knew that these three ceremonies had reaffirmed for me that it is a privilege to be among men and women who at a certain moment, took that one step forward to raise their hands and be sworn into the service of their country. Those of us who have done so understand that that one step is life changing, perhaps life-ending, but a step that countless men and women have taken and will continue to take in respect for and defense of our country.
It is a privilege to take their photos, write their stories and share their tears.
To all of them — thank you.