THE RADIO PLAYED in the background as I washed dishes Memorial Day morning. I listened to honored veterans speak of the war dead and freedom and why the American flag is folded 13 times. I listened to the local Legion leader read the names of all county veterans who died in the past year. Well over one hundred. And I heard, too, the honking of horns as attendees at my community’s annual Memorial Day program in Central Park “applauded.”
COVID-19 changed so many traditions this year—including here in Faribault. There was no parade, no ceremony at the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial, no lunch at the Legion. Only the traditional program continued in the park, but with attendees sheltered inside their vehicles. Others, like me, listened at home to the live broadcast on KDHL radio.
And, as I listened, I thought of my dad, an infantryman in the Korean War. I thought, too, of his buddy Ray, killed by a mortar. Dad saw his friend die. Dad, who died 17 years ago, carried that grief and the horrors of war with him. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, undiagnosed until decades after he left Korea.
I continued washing dishes while the radio played. But when taps sounded, I stopped. To cry. Thinking of my dad. Missing him. The playing of taps often moves me into a place of grief for all the lives lost in war.
Later, Randy and I drove to the Cannon City Cemetery where, on a typical Memorial Day, we would attend a program under the cedar trees. We’ve grown to love this grassroots gathering of rural folks who honor the war dead with music and poetry and inspirational readings. But, because of COVID-19, that event was canceled, too.
And so we roamed among the tombstones, pausing at the flag-marked graves of soldiers, including that of our friend Rhody.
Inside and outside cemetery boundaries, the rural-ness of this place prevails in art. Natural and man-made. I delighted in that.
And the wind, which typically whips on this hillside cemetery, remained still, as if it also understood the need for calm, for reflection, for peace in the storm of COVID-19.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Yes, this year the way Memorial Day was recognized and celebrated throughout the USA was very different from days past. I was happy to read that you managed to find a meaningful way to honor your dad and other veterans on this special day. Your pictures are lovely and your words touched my heart. Thank you for sharing. ❤
You are welcome. And thank you for your sweet words, Jan.
It makes me sad to know the grief and the horrors that your dad and other war heroes suffered. (They are all heroes to me)! I can’t image…. I’m just so grateful for their sacrifice. What a Brave man your dad was.
Thank you for your honoring words for my dad and the others who have served.
I appreciate your post. It was very meaningful, and I hope that I can measure up to my dad who served in the S. Pacific in WW2. He was so quiet about the war, and only relayed the happy moments. It was a difficult Memorial Day, and I will be having my own this week when I go to plant flowers on my folks’ graves this week. Thanks!
Philip, thank you for honoring your parents by visiting their final resting place and planting flowers.
I’m not surprised your dad didn’t talk much about his service in WW II. My dad didn’t either.
I am glad you we’re able to “remember” in a special way. It has definitely been different this year, that is for sure.
I knew I needed to do “something” to honor those who died in service to country.
It sounds like you had a very nice Memorial Day celebration in spite of the pandemic.
I love the bird sitting on the wire fence. As always, nice job Audrey!
Thank you, Valerie. The bird on fence is one of my favorite pix, too.
Such a sweet and touch piece, Audrey. Thank you for sharing.
You are welcome, Penny.
I agree with the other posters, you rescued this Memorial Day in a meaningful way. Korean War is the first “war” I remember, partly because we got our first tv that made everything so much more real. My life has been touched by PTSD, it’s an unspeakable condition from an unspeakable experience and I believe, why before we all became the verbal generations, veterans just got on with their lives. There is no real way to honor the sacrifices, just try and help cope, and cope ourselves. Loved your pictures. Next year we can hope for parade pictures, always loved Faribault’s parades.
I’m sorry you’ve been touched by PTSD. And, yes, veterans tried to get one with their lives.
Beautiful reflection on a day made as such.
Thank you for honoring your fathers service and the sacrifice of his combat buddy who never was able to enjoy all that your father had after he came home.
May the future generations never forget those sacrifices.
To follow up on my dad’s buddy Ray…with the help of a brother-in-law, I tracked down Ray’s daughter. We’ve talked and exchange letters, but still have not met. She was grateful for photos and stories I could share about her dad.
Where does Ray’s daughter live? I bet it must be good for her to have you as a link to her father’s service and that he is still remembered.
Terri lives in southwestern Iowa, so not particularly far. Yes, she was grateful for my finding her and sharing about her dad. Her mom remarried and her dad was not talked about much.