Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
This year’s Memorial Day celebration didn’t work out exactly as hoped. Rain ended the promise of a marching parade and a graveside visit. Instead a few hundred of us crowded into the City Hall auditorium sitting shoulder to shoulder with veterans of many wars and peacetime, families of perished soldiers and the children of servicemen and women who have never known anything but unthreatened liberty. (NOTE CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR LARGER IMAGES)
THOH walked into the near empty auditorium about a half an hour early, just as people scrambled to figure out the lights and sound system. We had a chance to chat with other early arrivers and snap a few photos.Well behaved children were dressed in their patriotic best and vehemently waved the stars and stripes while simultaneously and inadvertently endangering a sibling or two with their unbridled enthusiasm.
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas spoke of sacrifice and families; HHS Senior Trevor Hubbard recited the Gettysburg Address, Mayor Fiorentini asked all veterans to stand to be recognized. Hats declared wars – World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and more while uniforms identified the branches of the military. Several wore street clothes. The crowd wanted to rise up to honor the veterans in our midst knowing that while Memorial Day is not a specific tribute to the surviving veterans, they most assuredly were in attendance representing their brothers in arms who did not make it home.
I thought about this for a while and it reinforced my belief that the best way to honor those who gave their lives for this country, the best way to remember them, is to support the living soldiers in our midst, many of whom are struggling with age related disabilities or substance abuse or mental and emotional disorders. A first start might be donating time, money or goods to Northeast Veterans Outreach here in Haverhill.
A group of mixed aged men and boys represented Scout Troop 63. We spoke with a troop leader who told us the boys spent considerable time placing a flag on each grave at Haverhill’s Linwood Cemetery for the men and women who served in the military. They do this every year, mostly unnoticed. We went to the cemetery after the program – there were literally hundreds of gravestones marked. Some flags fluttered in huge clusters. Others adorned single, unremarkable stones that, before the flag, blended in with the grass and could easily have been missed.
The Heartbeat of Haverhill has a confession – whenever I sing along to patriotic songs there almost always comes a time when I just mouth the words. It’s not out of disrespect, actually quite the contrary. I am overcome with emotion, pride, respect and sadness for what the rockets’ red glare might mean to our troops. That is when I know I can’t trust my voice. But as we sang along with the bands today, the Haverhill School Band playing military anthems followed by the Sons of Italy performing Taps first as a band, second as a solo horn, I watched one man struggle. From across the room I saw his eyes well and I left my camera at my side out of respect, because this man stood with the veterans earlier in the program and knew far more than I could ever guess about the meaning of Memorial Day.