We must never forget them


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Memorial Day and Flag Day

Every time we turn left off SR 73 South and head east on Antioch Road, I feel a knot in my stomach. It is as if my gut knows that we are headed for New Antioch Cemetery.

Fifteen years have passed since our son, Danny, died and was buried in that peaceful little place. We rarely go there. It just hurts too much.

Yet, every Memorial Day we load some cleaning supplies and fresh flowers into the car and head that way. You can tell by the looks and the postures of the other people who are cleaning off headstones and arranging flowers that they would rather be doing anything else… anything, other that decorating the grave of a loved one who has passed away.

I recall, as a child, that Mom called this day Decoration Day. It was just that. The day we would go to the cemetery and decorate graves. We would walk ahead of Mom and Dad and try to find the headstone of our grandparents.

Until you were close enough to read the name, most of the headstones looked the same. In Scottsburg Cemetery, we would look for the headstone marked – RILEY.

Later, we would head north a few miles to Crothersville. After a sharp left on Main Street, we would ride to the edge of the village. There was the Crothersville Cemetery. That is where we would find the final resting spot of Papaw and Mamaw Bridges.

It was sad. It was always a sad day, but I remember that we always felt closer to our grandparents and my own parents after driving to southern Indiana and spending time placing flowers and remembering those wonderful old folks. Now, our children are passing that tradition on to their children.

Like Veterans Day, we also spend time at the Clinton County Veterans Memorial, but this day is different. On this day, we specifically honor those veterans who did not survive the war. At the memorial, is a special black granite stone imbedded in the circle, surrounded by bricks that bear the names of other veterans.

But this stone is different. It lists the names of Clinton County veterans who have died in every war we have fought since we became a nation. Every time I look at that black stone, I think, “This is too many names.”

Today, I also recalled the meetings we had in the Veterans Services offices as the memorial was being designed. In one of those meetings, we decided to leave blank sheets of granite at both ends of the memorial. These blank granite slabs are a reminder that wars do not end.

One conflict will be replaced by the next one. The list of conflicts and wars will continue into the future. More names will be added. More parents will grieve the lose of their children.

Our job will be to memorialize them. Our job will be to never forget that the freedom we cherish came at a high cost – the lives of many, many young soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Because they paid the price, we can enjoy the freedom that is afforded to us.

The American flag was also honored on this special day. Pledges and oaths were recited. Special music was played in honor of the occasion. It is very fitting and appropriate that we stand and honor our flag.

In a few weeks, we will observe our National Flag Day. I encourage everyone to replace their old, weathered flag with a new flag on June 14, but do not just throw an old American flag away.

Near the back door of our American Legion Post #49 is a special container for retired flags. Place your old flag into the container and the members of Post #49 will be sure the flags are retired with dignity and honors.

If you see a flag that has been discarded, take it the American Legion. I encourage our sanitation workers to be on the look-out for flags that may have been discarded in the trash. If one is seen, take it to the sanitation office. Call me. I will come pick them up and will be sure they are properly handled.

You may have noticed that the small flags that are worn on the right shoulders of our military personnel appear to be backwards. That is done on purpose. It is designed to look as if the flag is flying in the breeze as the person wearing the flag runs forward into the battle.

They do not run from the danger, but toward it.

That is what our veterans have done. They have advanced into battle, so the civilians left behind did not have to.

We must never forget the bravery of the men and women who have served their country – especially those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

God Bless America.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist