Allegan, MI was a great place, for me at least, to grow up. A town of roughly 3,000 people at the time, cradled in a valley along the shores of the Kalamazoo River and not far from Lake Michigan, it carried that small town feel of nostalgia.
The Allegan forest is one of the largest in Michigan and during the Fall, is spectacular when the leaves change. Winters were tough with the snow, but lots of fun growing up (until I became the designated person to shovel the driveway that is).
Over time, I’d like to share more about that small town, but today, the memories of Memorial Day are what are filling my heart. The Allegan cemetery is located on the high side of town and is where we honored our veterans.
We not only had a ceremony on Memorial Day, but we also had a parade that stretched throughout town with people lining the streets with flags waving. Having been in marching band, it was an annual event we marched in and then played music for the ceremony. For three of those years, I was honored to lead the band down the street as their Drum Major (more about that some other time).
As a child, it was a time we enjoyed a parade and then headed over to one of those little neighborhood convenience stores on the corner adjacent to the cemetery called, The Mighty Midget, to get a popsicle. I never understood why they were firing cannons and playing taps until I got older.
Suffice to say, it was something rarely seen today. Now we’re more likely to have a small ceremony at the cemetery, if that, and then off to the lake for a BBQ. The older I became, the more I learned to appreciate that ceremony and what it stood for.
A bit later in life, after becoming a Navy Chaplain Candidate, I was able to train as an officer and, on occasion, help with services. I was asked to perform a funeral once for a veteran who’d passed away. I’ll never forget handing the folded flag to the sweet widow.
You see, that flag represented something to her. For her, it was what her husband fought for. It was central to their lives even after he was in the military. If she could have had anything from that day, it was that flag. The tears flowed down her cheeks as she gripped that flag in her arms. I almost cried too just because of the raw emotion she showed when she saw that flag.
I don’t know if he’d fought in WWII, but he was from that generation, now known as, ‘The Greatest Generation’. It was a generation that was willing to give everything to defend freedom and, literally, save the world from tyranny.
Once again, tonight, I want to encourage you to take a few moments this weekend to stop and thank those who served or remember those who paid the ultimate price.
I’ll leave you with a photo taken a few years back at an event called, The Snowball Express. It’s a non-profit organization started by Gary Sinise created to bless the children of fallen warriors. Each balloon in the photo below represents a child’s fallen parent. It’s a wonderful organization. I’ve linked to it on the photo if you want to learn more.
Many blessings my friends,