Here on Martha’s Vineyard, the air is filled with aromas of grilling and sounds of laughter and music and, well, the good stuff that happens when people converge for that fabulous thing called vacation. In short, summer is here; the season has officially begun.
Of course, it’s also Memorial Day, which, if you’ve been on FB, you’ve been reminded many times of what the holiday really means. Which is good.
The first time I visited the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA was in 2011. I was overwhelmed with the expanse of rolling, green land, the veritable hush in the air, and the thousands upon thousands of American flags that waved in the gentle Cape Cod breeze.
It turned out that over 60,000 flags had been placed at each marker by scores of volunteers. Called Operation Flags for Vets, the project was organized by a man named Paul Monti, who had lost his son in Afghanistan in 2006. Each year since 2011, flags are placed on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.
I was lucky to have had one of these amazing vets in my life. As with all the markers, his is simple; he would have liked it that way. Best of all, it is surrounded by markers of vets from different wars, different eras, wartime, and peacetime. All vets, nonetheless. All among those who—the cliché says it best—had served to keep freedom alive.
So on this weekend of burgers and beaches and folks having fun, I thought you might like to see some of those flags (there are now 66,000) . . . and imagine the quiet with respect. And with thanks.
Oh, and though this is not about me, I’d like to add that this year I had the privilege of being one of those flag-placing volunteers. It was a most memorable, truly heartfelt experience that I shared with 4,000 people . . . and one stranger—a nameless, sweet biker guy who appeared from out of nowhere and offered to give me a hand. I was grateful; the task was difficult. He didn’t say much; he merely worked methodically alongside me, piercing the earth so I could more easily insert the small flagpole.
I couldn’t have done it without him. When we were finished the sweet biker guy wandered off to help someone else. I never found out what had drawn him to the event—what, or more importantly, who. My best guess is that he, too, had his own reasons for attending, instead of hanging out at home having burgers and beer.