Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Happy Memorial Day, y'all!" Yep, I know that the holiday of remembrance was observed on Monday (two days ago). However, in my younger days Memorial day always got observed on 30 May regardless. So today IS the traditional M.D.! Now that I have that little detail taken care of. . . . I observed the (observed) Memorial Day with two ceremonies in Clarksville. And even approached the current "it's the start of Summer" fad by visiting a neighborhood park, Valleybrook Park, for a while of relaxed strolling and sitting in the evening. The first ceremony took place late on Sunday, the eve of the holiday, at C'ville's Veterans Plaza. This is in what used to be a shopping center featuring Montgomery Ward, Harvey's Dept. Store with its signature carousel horse and small shops. It's off Madison Street on Pageant Lane. Some of the occupants nowadays are the public library, county clerk's and other city or county offices, and a vet's help office which looks out on a seating and activity area with some natural greenery which is the actual vets plaza. The Sunday evening ceremony remembered thirty Tennesseans (two from C'ville) from the Vietnam era who are still MIA, and honored two former Mias whose remains were recently returned to their families. Thirty-two empty and black-draped chairs represented these men. Invocation and benediction were prayed by Scott Witt, pastor of Gateway Christian Church, leader of a Bible study at his home on Sunday evenings (cancelled for obvious reason) and longtime friend of yours truly. Featured speaker was a member of gateway and another longtime friend, Van Stokes. Van had a tight schedule on Sunday p.m., because he called the radio play-by-play of the OVC baseball championship game in Jackson. Austin Peay State U. of Clarksville won! But the hustling between two different assignments at two widely-distanced sites didn't seem to phase my friend. Van gave a great address on the significance of this memorial event. Then the name of each man was called out, high-tone bell rung and his chair brought front and center. All in all the ceremony was sobering and impressive. Sobering in that it raises the dark shadows of that conflict in Vietnam which tore severely at our nation during my childhood. Impressive in that were remembering the men, and the "we" was a decent-size crowd. On the actual (observed) holiday morning, I attended another, more traditional ceremony of remembrance at Veterans Memorial Park. This is on Madison near Pageant Lane, and features poles for flags (one more prominent than the others for the American flag), stelae (upright inscribe stone slabs) with lists of Clarksvillians who gave the ultimate sacrifice in our various wars in the past century (including the current war on terror). The garrison commander at Fort Campbell was the featured speaker. the 1012st Air Assault band provided live music (ther was also a piper, but let's not go there), and a three-Marine firing squad. A half dozen local military veterans chapters and organizations located wreaths near the end of the ceremony, and the very end of it was a bugler in the band playing Taps following a triple volley of firings from the Marine squad. I conclude by pointing out that speakers in both ceremonies, but especially the Monday one, alluded to the close ties between the local Army post, Ft. Campbell, and the local municipality, C'ville. Yes, those ties are deep and strong. Unlike Killeen, Texas, which would fade to a little village were Fort Hood to close, my city has a diverse economic foundation. It's the county seat, was a historic center of the tobacco industry, hosts other industries, and is the home of APSU. So it's natural that Clarksville, even tho' it's much smaller than Nashville and San Antonio, where I've also lived and attended Memorial Day ceremonies, should put some effort into having observances related to this holiday of remembrance. Good for you, Clarksville!

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