By Edith Morgan
They’re getting older and there are fewer of them; but every year at this time, they are at St. John’s Cemetery on Cambridge Street and other places to put American flags by the graves of those who died in battle. I am referring to our veterans, members of the American Legion, who have for many years put flags by 3,000 graves each year. This year they are getting help from the South High School and the Burncoat High School members of the ROTC.
I can remember many years ago, when there were parades down Worcester’s Main Street, featuring the marching bands of the various services, in full uniform. Many of us lined up along the street waving flags along the sidewalk. But year after year the crowds got smaller, the parades shorter, and the enthusiasm less. It is almost like “battle fatigue,” with so many wars, so much death, so many killed or maimed, year after year, war after war … .
As I look back, I think much of the disenchantment started with the disastrous Vietnam war. And has continued through the many wars we fought, wars whose burdens were not borne equally by all, under the draft, but were fought by a “volunteer army” representing a smaller segment of the American people, often for many years and in faraway places.
I have always strongly believed that, regardless of whether you are drafted, or whether you a a volunteer, we who send you out to fight our battles, to die or return damaged in body and/or soul, deserve quality support and care, for you and your families.
Even when I have opposed some of these wars, I have always believed that it is our duty to properly care for those who returned, as well as those who gave their lives.
So this special day, the last Monday in May, should be given over to remembering these dead, making sure that their loved ones are being looked after and perhaps giving thought to how to prevent the incessant slaughter that makes such a remembrance necessary.
But what I miss at this time is a day commemorating the civilian dead and injured, those in both sides of a war, who are just “in the way” – whose homes are bombed, whose air is poisoned, whose vital services are interrupted and who are not reimbursed for any losses – who are left to the tender mercies of charities, committees or government bureaucracies. They are generally women and children, left to fend for themselves, chased here and there, usually unarmed and uncounted.
I recall one Memorial Day parade in Worcester, when some of us who were members the WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) wanted to join the parade with a large poster enumerating the number of civilian victims of World War II – who outnumbered the military dead about 10 to one. We were told we could not join, and had to walk along the parade route on the sidewalk. If all these wars were fought to “protect” us, the people, then why are we not counted (our numbers are always given in figures – like “60 million died in World War I.” So on Memorial Day, I remember the innocent, the civilian dead, also – and hope we have learned something.