This week is a call for celebration. The United States Marine Corps turns 223 (I think)years old on Wednesday. Thursday is the 80th anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I, “the war to end all wars.” And on Tuesday the Poets in the Park get together for their regular monthly reading open to any and all.
In Washington DC, the Marines have a major ceremony including the prestigious and very macho Marine Corps 26.2 mile marathon. A huge many-layered birthday cake is cut using the traditional sword, lance if you will, and served up by the youngest and the oldest Marine present. There are no ex-Marines. There are perhaps a million former Marines, but there are no ex-Marines.
Sarge, the poet and author of whom I’ve written before, will be there. One year, he cut the cake. Sarge did one tour in Korea and two tours in Viet Nam. I don’t think Sarge has ever missed one of those DC parties. He says that every year the faces get younger and he sees fewer friends but he will be there until the day he quits moving.
And the crowd from the Blue Ribbon Grill will be celebrating that day too. Paul and Ludlow served in the Corps, as did much of the staff and a great many regulars. The Blue Ribbon is the Atlanta headquarters for former Marines. Paul usually arranges for a bagpiper in kilts to lead a contingent of Marines from the Naval Air Attachment nearby serving as color guards on a parade through the Grill and into the parking lot.
On Paul’s reception table in the front in a glass case sits an American flag that flew over Kuwait City in the spring of 1991. The walls are adorned with Marine Corps memorabilia including a signed photo of “Chesty” Puller, WWII Marine’s Marine, the most decorated Marine of all time. For an hour or so after the parade, all drinks for regulars are on the house.
As a young boy in the late 40’s, Armistice Day, now known as Veteran’s Day, was a big event. In the village in northeastern Ohio in which I spent my early years we had a huge parade. The National Guard, or Army Reserves, or whoever they were, would practice marching for weeks on a back street behind City Hall. I would march with them, a stick over my shoulder as if a gun, being careful to stay on the sidewalk while they did close order drills on the street.
On parade day, veterans of WWI and WWII would line up together and march through town to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” played by the High School Band. And I got to march, too, as Cub Scout in my blue and gold. And was I proud. We all were proud. Your heart would go up into your throat as you marched alon with the veterans halting for a final assembly at the local cemetery a few blocks away.
The WWII veterans with M1 rifles and olive drab uniforms lined up beside the WWI veterans with Springfield rifles and brown uniforms. In front of them was the grave of a fallen comrade, a victim of WWI. They fired a three-gun salute, and somewhere over the hill, a bugler would play taps, another in the distance, echoing. Goosebumps. . .
So until next time, remembering the Marines and all the veterans, why not join me and the other amateurs for the open reading by the Poets in the Park on Tuesday afternoon? Maybe we can together enjoy the celebrations and find Trouble in Cedar Key.