Memorial Day 2013

This past weekend, as I always do before the Totowa Memorial Day parade, I stopped by the cemetery to place flowers on my father’s and grandparents’ graves.    As has happened in the past, a flag was missing from my father’s gravesite, but not Grandpa’s (thanks, LR!!).

The parade ends at the American Legion Post, which is responsible for the flag-planting, so I asked them for two flags, one for his official gravesite and the other for where he’s really buried (although with all the clover that covers his half-Irish body, I can’t help wondering if that is where he’s buried).  They said sometimes they just can’t find the military markers because they’re not tended.  My father’s grave was tended, but we can forgive them the mistake; he’s not buried where he’s supposed to be, anyway.

This cemetery is a bury-them-and-forget-it cemetery.  The graves are marked with flat stones.  After 15 years or so, the grass eventually covers over the marker completely.  My mother has carefully tended her parents’ and husbands’ graves so that doesn’t happen.  She has a set of tools in a green case called “The Grave Tools” for cutting away the grass and even pulling out weeds (trying to get the weeds out of Grandma and Grandpa’s grave proved quite a chore.  I told Mom this had to be Grandpa’s site because the weeds were so tough.  The weed came out with an alarmingly long root).

After Mom and I were finished (this was on Monday, the day after the Totowa parade), I walked around our section of the cemetery to uncover some of the markers.  Some dated as far back as 1957.   After the first or, if they’re lucky, the second generation, the concern for the grave fades.  People move away; generations lose interest; families die out and the grass grows over their memorials so that the flag planters can’t even find the veterans anymore.

The Nephew has moved out to California; he certainly won’t return to visit the site of a grandfather who died years before he was born.  There are no other children.  The grass has grown deeper as the marker sinks and proves with every year that passes, harder and harder to trim.  This year, I had to use a small garden shovel to do the job, which Mom is no longer able to do.

Assuming I live another 35 years, there will come a day when I will not be up to the task, either.  By that time, I suppose it won’t matter, for my father or the other veterans buried in the cemetery.  Future flag-planters won’t even know where to put them, and they’ll be forgotten.

That seems kind of a shame.  For the rest of us, the flat stones are fine.  But the for the men who stormed the Normandy Beach or  battled malaria and snipers from Tarawa to Guadalcanal, faced the horrors of war on the sands of Iwo Jima, risked their lives on bomber flights over Germany, marched through the desert of Libya, or scaled their way up through the mountains of Italy, as my father had, fading away just doesn’t seem to do them justice.

What of the other soldiers who might be buried there?  The cemetery is old enough for World War I doughboys facing the nightmare of the first chemical warfare and new enough to have as its tenants casualties and veterans of the Korean and Vietnam war; Vietnam, with its snake-filled rivers and treacherous swamps, as well as a treacherous Media back home undermining them.

All of them either sacrificed their lives, or gave up a portion of their lives, or came home wounded.  Don’t they deserve a little better memorial than to be swept under the grass?  At least those who are cremated have a permanent marker.

To the soldiers, sailors, merchant marines and other heroes buried under the grass at Laurel Grove:  you are not forgotten.

Readers, forgive the belated post.  Your faithful blogger was felled this week by a combined case of strep throat and inner ear infection.  Thank God for penicillin!


Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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