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Friday, November 11, 2005

LEST WE FORGET

Dedicated to the men and women of the Armed Forces that helped ensure my freedom to write this,and yours to read.

the CENOTAPH

I believe it stands about fifteen feet tall,but in my minds eye it seems like it stretched to the heavens,towering over us like an ancient Deity such Romans had.If indeed it had have been of ancient Roman design,it could only have been from one of their Gods,and one alone,that being Mars the God of War.There is a plaque that reads in part LEST WE FORGET and there is a cross and it speaks of God.I wonder what sort of "politically correct" image and wording it would have if done today?Keep God in our Language!


In the Small Town(pop.235) where I went to school,there stands at the end of Main Street a War Monument that we all simply called the Cenotaph.On it are written the names of the Town's fallen Sons,from World War One,World War Two and what was deplorably called the Korean Conflict,which from all accounts was a war worse then the Second,as it lacked proper support from either government or public,small comfort to those who laid down their lives to know it wasn't really a war.
In the days when the trains still stopped,it was only fitting to build the Cenotaph beside the Station House for all to see as soon as you climbed down from the train car.
It was a meeting place of sorts,in a way that people growing up and driving in cities will never understand.Laying as it did at the end of the street,it was a natural place to make an illegal U-turn,looping around the monument,and if two drivers chosed to stop,hang their heads from the windows and catch up on the latest weather news or gossip,well,the next car could just make a wider turn and loop around them.
Surrounding it on three sides was a wrought iron fence,no more then thirty inches tall,the side facing down the street had a chain linked between posts,guarding the pathway that lead to the base of the monument.There was always fresh flowers around it,though who placed them was a mystery.It was as if some grieving mother or wife had a secret pack with a florist,and wished to remain anonymous,or perhaps that is just a young boys fantasy and no real mystery was involved.I select to believe the first hypothesis.

Once a year the pathway to the face was swept clean,any old flowers,or candy bar wrappers that the wind had placed around it where meticulously gathered and taken out of view.The street it's self,if not covered with ice and snow,as it was on more then one occasion,was swept,not by street cleaning machinery,such luxuries were not in the Village budget,but by the school children.
We were all pulled from classes,handed brooms and garbage bags,and marched the three blocks from school to Main,all the while "policing the area"as the Veterans where apt to call it.
It was then on to the towns theater,called such as it once run movies on Saturday night,alas those shows ended with the coming of Television and the closing of stores on Saturday nights.Once there we carefully swept and dusted the entire interior,I once found a blue garter,lost there from the last wedding reception held.
Finally all is ready,tomorrow is the day,and as usual,I will be called upon to perform,much to both my chargin and my to my pride.

Finally the moment is at hand.It is November the eleventh,and the eleventh hour is fast approaching.The theater is close to or at capacity,the stores are all closed,the school halls and rooms are empty.Even the Hotel's Beverage room is closed,not by law,but by respect.It's doors will soon open again,it will be one of it's busiest days,as fighting men are apt to do when cast together and thoughts go to fallen comrades,they will partake of a "nip or two"

Once again the schools across the nation have held essay contests,the theme needing to be of course about the War and what it means to us,and once again,across the nation,the winners of such contests are forced to forget their fears and "perform for the troops".Refusing such an honour would be paramount to treason,and if there was one thing I was,I was a patriot.
I may be wrong,someone may be able to correct me,but I am quite sure that for the twelve years I participated in such a ceremony,I was forced to perform a minimum of nine times,having won that top honour as best essay in the school,not of your grade,but of the school,the divisions being one separate award for grades 3-8 and another from 9-12.
After the speeches where over,and the awards handed out,a bugle would play,that most mournful of tunes the Last Post which was followed by a full two minute silence,not like the "pretend Moment of silence that is used this days which lasts about 15 seconds.
It was then we would all march out,and down the street,the parade led by members of the Legion,followed by us Boy Scouts.
The "lone Mother or wife"(one who had lost a son or husband) who had been chosen that year would lay the first wreath,the rest following close behind.

Then,one by one,the Veterans would step forward to read,each man doing twenty names before ceding to the next,as roll call was held,and all the names on the tall stone where read aloud.
This was the worst time for us Boy Scouts,we where always cold,wearing only our uniforms and no jackets,and we would stamp our feet nervously ,heads hanging to hide the tears that formed,from the icy wind,of course,not from our emotions.This would go on,and on,seeming to take forever.I have some good memories of my Scouting days,and those were amongst the best,not like the other memories that are here .
I think it was about my ninth or tenth such ceremony when an ironic thought occured.There was( are) more names on that tall stone post,our Cenotaph,then there where people alive in the town,either then or at anytime.
We are a proud bunch us Prairie Dogs,and when the call came for King and Country,our sons all lined up,all eager to "do their bit" The Province I am from as the honour of having the highest rate of volunteers in the Country,a fact I am so,so proud of,however I can only imagine what wonders my home town could have produced,if it had not given away it's very best.

Please,read below,and then hang your head and give thanks for those who fought and died,Allies from around the world,all united to fight the good fight,and to make our Freedom possible.


LEST WE FORGET:


In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
A Proud Canadian who went to do "his bit"
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1 Comments:

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