Since we are remembering the invasion of Europe, the American flag’s birthday, Fourth of July and Memorial Day in just a few weeks’ time, I thought I would add my memories. It will not be new to most of the older adults, but it is a sweet and scary but important task.
When I was a little girl, I would jump out of bed and hurry and get dressed, for fear I would be left behind. A very important job was ahead. Helping Dad and my older sister put the little flags on the graves in our family cemetery was such a honor. Then to town with my folks to help the American Legion Post finish the cemetery there. I cherished being included and knew it to be a solemn and important task for me.
When we were finished, we would hurry home to bathe, change clothes and braid my long hair very carefully, since I would be reciting the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.
There would be the gun salute, and the kids wanted to put their fingers in their ears but didn’t.
We would stand as still as we could through playing of “Taps.” The reward was eating the best fried chicken at the Legion Hall.
Later, as the sun began to set, we would return to gather the little flags. One by one, row after row, I would reverently put them in my little bucket for carrying the precious cargo.
The job became more important after Dec. 7, 1941. My brother and most of the young men in our farm community left for Europe and the south Pacific. Most of those places seemed so far away for a young girl, but Dad put huge maps up in the dining room, with hundreds of little yellow and red pins to show the battle locations and the progress of the two wars going on at the same time.
Then the dreaded telegrams started to come, and they came and came. Now a gold star would hang in the windows of some folks to replace the blue star that served as a kind of shield against disastrous news. My brother came home four years later from the Pacific, and I had short curly hair.
Many wars have followed with the same heartaches and triumphs. So I thank all of you who served in any way to keep a little girl with braids safe, so she could grow up and follow her dreams.
Be sure to be kind to each other and remember those veterans who taught us to serve.
Nedda Simon of rural Princeton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.