Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lest We Forget...

Greenwich is a town that takes its Memorial Day seriously. Sure, all the yacht and country clubs have fantabulous gourmet "cookouts" that would choke a horse and elicit a terse "satisfactory" from Nero Wolfe, but first we pause to remember. And that means getting out the door early.

Your scribe was on the road by 7:30 - a little later than usual this year - driving down Greenwich Avenue and admiring all the buffed and toned runners who were preparing for Mickey Yardis' annual Jim Fixx Memorial Day race. Luckily, the cops hadn't closed down the street yet, so he was able to drive (barely) under the finish line banner that was being hoisted, and continue on down to Steamboat Road. Passing by Manero's Restaurant, now in the process of being demolished, and pulling into the lot at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, he was rewarded with one of the last few remaining parking places.

The weather, as usual, was seasonably summery. Taking his accustomed place on the seawall, your scribe chatted with Scott Mitchell of Mitchells/Richards and his young son Will, whose hands were firmly clamped over his ears. Will had not forgotten the firing of the cannon or the 21-gun salute from last year, and was taking no chances at being caught by surprise. His little sister Lilly, the sunglasses princess, was soon emulating him. Their preparedness paid off as the cannon roared at 8 AM precisely, catching the rest of us by surprise.

The indefatiguable Chris Hughes moderated, as usual. Attorney General Dick Blumenthal (a Town resident) spoke briefly, and allowed as how of all the Memorial Day commemorations he had attended in the past, and would be attending later in the day, this was the one that always meant the most to him. (Click on the pics for full-size view.)

A young girl from the Color Guard of the Boys' and Girls' Club read a poem about Old Glory, while club Executive Director Bob DeAngelo and his wife drifted in their kayak nearby.

Then we all looked seaward while a wreath was lowered from the police boat into the water. The idea is to let it drift out to sea, of course; but for the second time in recent years it simply sank into the water, disappearing without a trace. You'd think someone would have learned after the first time that it's important to construct a wreath that floats, but institutional memory in this Town is, alas, regrettably short. As was the life of this year's wreath.

Then it was time for coffee and doughnuts, courtesy of the Club, to provide energy to drive across Town for the parade in Old Greenwich. The sky clouded, and it started to sprinkle, but the sidewalks were jammed with festive crowds regardless. And by the time the parade was underway, it was hot and sunny.

This event, dear reader, is a real old-fashioned small-town parade, in which half the marchers are under the age of ten. Every Cub Scout, Brownie, baseball player, soccer player, lacrosse player, swim team, dance group, karate group, and other agglomeration of kids is there, with everyone in uniform and armed with bags of sweets to toss to the younger kids lining the curbs. And lots of fire trucks, of course - most of them usually housed in the firehouse directly across the street from where your scribe was standing.

These are the Children of the American Revolution dressed in Colonial garb. At the far right is Christina Moazed, whom during the parade your scribe mistook for one of the Schnackenberg girls; but when we bumped into each other on the sidewalk afterwards, he realized his error and got to meet Christina and her parents. It's great that the DAR, who run the historic Putnam Cottage in Town, is reaching out to youngsters whose ancestors took part in the American Revolution. Nothing like having a personal stake in our Nation's history to make it become herstory/theirstory for people like Christina and her friends.

There was also the usual gaggle of politicians. "Skippy" Snickerson roamed up and down the sides the parade route, gladhanding any and all within his reach. Your scribe grasped his camera more firmly in his right hand as Skippy passed, and thus managed to survive unscathed. Then came Steve Waters in his red Mercedes, chauffering Bea Crumbine (affectionately known around Town as "Queen Bea") and her Selectman husband Peter.

Further down the line were the Democrats, two of whom broke ranks to shake hands with your equal-opportunity scribe. Former Rhodes Scholar and fellow Harvardian Jim Himes came over to say hello, as did Ed Krumeich (aka "Lurker Ed", who reads this blog faithfully but never leaves a comment). "Your depth of knowledge of music is very impressive," said Lurker Ed, thereby making your scribe's day. Since Ed himself apparently cannot bother to post his laudatory comments on-line, your faithful reporter is hereby doing it for him. (Ed, by the way, is no musical slouch himself.)

The parade music was provided by the Greenwich High School marching band, fresh from its successful trip to China. The two young ladies are walking backwards while conducting. No doubt they are also experts at patting their heads while rubbing their stomachs. A very talented group of youngsters, those GHS students.

Then it was over to CVS to drop off the disposable camera for one-hour processing, and a trip to the beach to read the local rag and the New York Times. Did y'all catch the front page Times story about Delta Company, by the way? Last February they killed a man setting a roadside bomb of the type that have killed so many of our troops recently. They searched him and found his military ID as a sergeant in the Iraqi army. Said Staff Sergeant David Safstrom: "I thought: 'What are we doing here? Why are we still here?' We're helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us." The Times has already taken a lot of heat for publishing this article on Memorial Day, but some would say that by so doing they performed a brave public service. One wonders why S/S Safstrom's words were not selected as the "Quotation of the Day"; perhaps the paper's editorial bravery only went so far. Your scribe was less than gruntled at this seemingly pusillanimous decision; but at least the soldier's words were there on the front page for all to see.

The article went on to say that many in Delta Company, "renowned for its aggressiveness", have become "disillusioned" by "what they saw as the abysmal performance of Iraqi security forces and by a conflict that they considered a civil war, one they had no ability to stop." Directly underneath those words was the picture of a young woman lying prostrate in Arlington National Cemetery over the grave of her fiance, Sgt. James J. Regan, killed in Iraq in February. It's enough to break your heart, dear reader:

Credit Information: John Moore/Getty Images Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

NYT Caption: Mary McHugh visited the grave of her fiancé, Sgt. James J. Regan, who was killed in Iraq in February.

Editorial note from your scribe: This picture ought to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

"The tumult and the shouting dies; The captains and the kings depart; Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart...Lord God of Hosts, Be with us yet, Lest we forget...lest we forget." With these words Kipling commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. At a time when most others were boasting about the glory of the British Empire, he was lamenting that "far-called, our navies melt away...Lo! all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre...." He called his poem "Recessional" - the traditional British term for the organ piece played at the end of a church service. Presciently, he seemed to know that the British Empire was already in its waning days.

And here we are, a hundred and ten years later - Kipling, thou should'st be living at this hour! - a country mired in what has been termed "the worst foreign policy blunder in our nation's history." And, given our past history of blundering (usually well-intentioned, to be sure, but blundering nonetheless), that's a pretty searing indictment. All in all, dear reader, this has been a Memorial Day one will not soon forget. "Lord God of Hosts, Be with us yet....'


Blogger ERiCA said...

You drove under the finish line banner?? That sounds pretty cool. =)

I had no idea about the Delta Company story... Yikes.

May 30, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Yeah, I was the first to drive under it, but I didn't win anything. Bummer!

June 04, 2007 5:16 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Christina's mom wrote: "Thank you so much for including the photo of the CAR float at your website! It was very nice of you to include a paragraph about the CAR, and to mention Christina. The children are all thrilled."

And thank you, Janet, for taking the great photograph!

June 05, 2007 10:03 AM  

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