The lush grass inside the Clarks Green Cemetery glistened with dew droplets under the blue, cloudless sky. Patches of buttercups splashed yellow into the scene. Birds sang from shade trees scattered among the tombstones.
But the feature that stood out most in this Memorial Day morning scene was not a part of the natural landscape. It was the red, white and blue stars and stripes of the flags fluttering in the breeze, marking the graves of American servicemen and women.
As I wandered the cemetery, reading the names and dates on those monuments, a steady stream of vehicles pulled in, parking alongside the dirt road. A small crowd gathered in front of the flagpole, awaiting the arrival of members of Abington Memorial VFW Post 7069 for the third of their four scheduled cemetery and memorial visits that morning.
The ceremony, which included short prayers, raising and saluting the flag, and wreath presentations, was brief but sincere.
If forced to choose one word to describe the atmosphere, I would use “respect.” Even the smallest children in attendance were quiet during the solemn event. And this respect was not only directed toward the deceased. Before and after the program, many people shook hands with the uniformed veterans and thanked them for their service.
As I left the cemetery, I thought about how easy it is to get carried away in the excitement of the three-day weekend and lose sight of the purpose behind Memorial Day. There’s plenty of celebrating, between the parades, cookouts, road trips and other activities. Which is great. But isn’t the holiday also about remembrance, mourning and gratitude?
I’m ashamed to admit that although I haven’t missed a Clarks Summit Memorial Day Parade in years, this was my first time attending any of the cemetery services.
But I’m glad I went this year.
And I plan to make it out every year from here on.