It is 11:15 a.m. and a crowd of Bryn Athynites have gathered at the flag pole in Boro Park to honor our nation's veterans. From atop its knoll, the cathedral looks over the valley, across to the ceremonies.
I miss the ceremony. Every Veteran's Day, Pete and I would get the kids ready, load up the buggy if there was a little one, and off we would go, up Alden Road, up the Black Path, to South Avenue and across to the park.
Now, as back then, there are speeches, the Boys Scouts march, the Girls Club leaves a wreath at the memorial; everyone will join in singing the national anthem, a group from a near by VFW post will fire off a volley in memory of those who fell. Someone will play Taps in the distance, and there will be a moment of silence. I am with them all today, if only in my heart.
For some still inexplicable reason, one year they asked Elsa to speak. She wasn't a veteran, wasn't a teacher or a sports coach or a community leader. Apparently, the person scheduled to speak fell through and the head of the selection committee worked at Prudential and so did Elsa and they ran into each other at the elevator and the other person saw her opportunity and took it. Elsa, never one to turn down a chance at a "jolly pulpit," came on board.
Elsa was 8-years old when Mike joined the Navy. He served in the Reserve while in high school and got his active uniform almost as soon as he got his diploma.
The slogan is "Join the Navy and see the world." Mike did. He had the great good fortune to be a plank owner (original crew) of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, on which he made two tours of duty of the Mediterranean. But what stopped our hearts back home was when the "Big E" took part in the Cuban Blockade during the Cuban missile crisis.
Scary would be an understatement.
Mike and his shipmates were part of a nuclear-powers showdown on our very doorstep that had us on the brink of unimaginable war. Like we had in the Great War and World War II, back home we waited and prayed.
Elsa’s talk focused on those uncertain times, times which most of the adults standing around the flag pole could remember in some way, and how it was for those of us ~ waiting, waiting, waiting.
She threw in her favorite bits of Lincoln including doing right as we see the right, and then she did a gutsy thing - she led the gathering in song.
Elsa does not have a pitch-perfect voice and I was startled when she came out with the request to sing. She got us all into singing the round, Dona Nobis Pacem. It was pretty raggy, but we did it.
As soon as we heard Elsa invite everyone to join in, Mim and I knew that it was more than simply appropriate to the moment, that the it replicated a moment pulled from a family-favorite (click Dear Sis) M*A*S*H. episode that honored Father Mulcahey, who was having a spiritual crisis, and his work of peace in the middle of the ravages of war.
It gave me goose bumps, standing there amidst the singing amidst the singing; it gives me goose bumps remembering it now.
May you all have a memorable Veteran's Day, whatever flag your service men and woman serve under.
May the Lord continue to "Give us peace."
Love – Mum L.
<< My thanks to Lori Nelson (and loving thoughts of her parents, especially Lou) for the words to Taps ~ "Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake,from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh..." >>