SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 – 29
11 NOVEMBER 2015: VETERANS DAY
Photographs by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong
Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, initially celebrated the end of the first world war. The fields in Europe where the war was fought were full of wild red poppies and for many years, red poppies were the symbol of World War I.
Fighting ended between the Allies and Germany at 11 AM on 11/11 — November 11, 1918. This is accepted almost universally as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, this barely interrupted the progression of war — and the holiday was known as Armistice Day.
After the police action in Korea concluded in 1954, “Veterans” was substituted for “Armistice.” The holiday became Veterans Day and honors veterans of all the wars we have ever fought. Which are a lot of wars and a great many veterans.
There is a Revolutionary War era cemetery in the middle of Uxbridge where you’ll find graves of those who died defending this country from early Revolutionary days, through the many “police actions” in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia … and everywhere else our military has been.
The cemetery is in the center of the town, directly across from the dam. Maybe a hundred yards from the Blackstone River. The graveyard is atop the hill, so it’s safe from spring floods.
The people who first chose that spot for the cemetery understood the river and flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but made sure it would be dry. Safe for bones and memories.
An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.
Every Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained.
They bring bouquets of wild flowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.
Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. The Valley has a long memory.
The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 15 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetl of eastern Europe.
Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.
Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but far from common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.
The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in a nearby villages for three, four, five generations.
“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If prodded, they may recall how, at some long ago, they came from somewhere else but the details are gone. It was a long time ago.
I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young.
Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod, because it was a long time ago, longer than we’ve been alive, and we aren’t young.
So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.
Should you decide to accept this challenge, you can use a picture from this or any post of mine — or any other picture you like. Write something about the picture or make something up, using a photograph — any photo — as a jumping off point.