santa cruz wharf

25 May 2009

In Idaho…they are just a little more free…

2009.05.15 MD a
Waking up in Boise, on my second day of The Tour, we walked into down town to find a quaint place for breakfast, taking our time and enjoying the day.

In a tree lined park surrounded by high rise office buildings we came upon a group of military.  From every branch, men and women of all ages in various uniforms from combat to dress. They stood at ease around the the edge of the grass talking casually to one another.  At one corner, lining both sides of a staircase, representatives from each branch stood at attention.

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A crowd was gathering.  We asked a young Marine what was going on, and learned it was some sort of early Memorial Day observance.  He said there would be a choir from the local school singing Amazing Grace, speakers and such.  We walked down the grassy knoll, looking around.  There was a podium and a few rows of chairs arranged around two flag poles. 

2009.05.15 MD d A young man was playing the violin:  “My Country Tis of Thee,”  “Battle Hymn of The Republic,” “American the Beautiful” lilting through the park.

At the base of the flagpoles was the Fallen Soldier Battle Cross.  A rifle, bayonet into the ground, with a helmet hung on the gun stock, and boots placed in front. 

Going back to the Civil War, it is used today in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sign of respect for the fallen among the still living members of the troop. Frequently the dog tags of the fallen soldier are hung from the rifle. I do not know the name of the soldier on these dog tags.
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People were gathered in small groups.  Some families. A few small children. Gentle hugs of greeting. Groups of men shaking hands and slapping backs as men will do.  Some in the formal business suit attire, many in motorcycle gear. 

DSC_0124 For a moment I felt as if we were crashing the event. But I noticed office workers from the surrounding buildings coming out…and other passersby stopping. We both knew without discussion that we wanted to stay.

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Half a dozen people were taking pictures, so I reached for the Teamster’s camera.  There was laughter and smiling.

The speaker opened by thanking the city of Boise and the company Quest for their sponsorship.

He spoke of the meaning of Memorial Day, and the importance of remembering not only those who have given their lives in military service, but also those in law enforcement and fire fighting who have been killed in the line of duty.

2009.05.15 MD gThere were introductions of additional speakers and the honoring of a local man who was a veteran of World War II, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. 

There was an American Flag presented, saluted, and folded thirteen times before being laid at the Battle Cross of the Fallen Soldier.

2009.05.15 MD hThe men and women from the staircase stood behind the podium. 

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The Stars and Stripes was presented and raised to half mast with the Idaho state flag. We pledged allegiance to our flag and sang our national anthem. We heard the stories of local men and women who have given the last full measure of their devotion in duty as soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, national guard, coast guard, police officers, and fire fighters.

I wondered if this kind of ceremony would ever be allowed in my town.  I sorta doubt it.  The University of California at Santa Cruz is famous for violently protesting military recruiters at all career events.  Certainly no public school child would ever be allowed to sing “Amazing Grace” in public.  They seem to be able to celebrate with more freedom in Boise than in Santa Cruz.  That makes me a bit resentful.

Three wreaths were presented in red, white and blue.

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The blue wreath by an officer of the Boise police department, and the red by the local fire chief.  The white wreath sent me from teary to tears.  A Vietnam Vet whose own son died in Iraq.

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The speaker announced that the anthem from each branch of service would be played, and invited anyone in the audience who had served to wave when their anthem was played.  One by one the songs filled the downtown area.

The Caissons Go Rolling Along
Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Anchors Aweigh
From the Halls of Montezuma, To the Shores of Tripoli
Always Ready

2009.05.15 MD n Each song was greeted by spontaneous applause…and while I saw a few people wave…what I noticed was the men who snapped to attention.  In jeans, or gear, or business suit…as their anthem played they stood straight and silent drawing no attention to themselves, a few with tears in their eyes.

2009.05.15 MD o As the commanding officer of the Idaho National Guard gave the keynote address I was distracted by a bucket of long stem red roses next to where we were standing.  When the songs and speeches were finished they invited anyone in the crowd who had lost a love one in the line of duty to bring a rose to the Battle Cross of the Fallen Soldier.

Out of respect, I took no pictures as these family and friends picked up a rose and took them forward.  Young women with babies.  An older woman crying on the arm of her son.  The sunglassed guy in the armani suit. Fathers and Mothers holding tight to one another. Quite a few kneeled at the cross for a moment as they left their rose.

There were salutations and the bugle played taps.  We walked away quiet and in awe of the experience. Although we were strangers, our patriotic hearts were touched by the emotional tribute we had stumbled upon that morning in Boise, Idaho.

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Desert Songbird said...

A Marine in his dress blues always does it for me. Now I'm sitting here crying my eyes out.

I, Like The View said...

that was a very moving account katherine.

thank you so much for sharing your experience

Schmoop said...

Great pics, Kat. And welcome back. Cheers!!

Mel said...

k.....made me weepy.....

Even the mention of "Taps" does it.

((((((((( katherine )))))))))

Thank you.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

What a wonderful event to find on your Tour.

Your description was perfect and left me with tears in my eyes.

Mimi Lenox said...

Very moving.

Sandee said...

I wish I could have been there K. I really do. We should all be grateful for the military yet so many are anti military. It's a shame.

Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

Dana said...


No words ... just a big, warm smile ...

Linda said...

I was more or less okay until I got to the part where they played the anthem of each branch of the service and then I started to tear up a little as I imagined each former service member snapping to attention. I lost it completely when I got to the part with the red roses as I could feel the grief and sorrow of those who laid a rose at the memorial.

What a wonderful ceremony they have in Boise; sounds like it puts Arlington to shame to be honest. I am sure it was one of the best parts of your journey with The Teamster; I know it would be for me.

Travis Cody said...

Wonderful description of a touching event.

dadshouse said...

I don't support the wars we are in, but I do support the military. Our country needs one as a byproduct of the world we live in. I grew up near an Air Force base, so ceremonies like this were de rigeur for me as a kid. I even played bugle at one. (I was a good trumpet player growing up).

Nice retelling of this Boise event.

Melissa Murphy said...

I wish I would have known about this event! Not only to GO of course, but to meet you as well.

It looks like an awesome ceremony- I'll check it out next year.

I love Idaho- glad to see you do too!

The Teamster said...

as a father of an active duty airman and thankful that he's been safe...this event was a moving tribute to those and those families who have given the altimate sacrifice for our country...many goose bumps and a few tears....

it looks like all your friends are glad you're back...

i'll be back soon....

david mcmahon said...

Thank you for sharing this poignant post with us, Katherine.

Red said...

Fantastic post! It made me tear up...thank you for sharing

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a fabulous post!!!! You are an excellent photographer!!!! And I was able to enjoy this wonderful tribute to our nation's military men and women because you so beautifully described it...I felt like I was there!!!! Thanks for stopping by my place!!! I am honored to meet you! I see we both love Superchick! Hurrah! I grew up in California...actually, spent half my childhood in Mountain View...The Santa Cruz beaches were my family's favorite! Many memories of sand castle building there :-) Then, we moved to the San Diego area where military reigns supreme :-) I love making new friends!!!! God bless you! ~Janine XO

Rikkij said...

That was a very beautiful post. so well put together. ~rick

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully evocative story and pictures...and something about the simplicity of the ceremony made it all the more poignant.

Jeni said...

Our church always has a service at our cemetery on Memorial Day and while it is a nice service in itself, it sure doesn't hold a candle to this tribute in Boise. Beautiful program made to come to life again through your pictures and words.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Hello, I came over from David's authorblog. This post is beautiful. Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award!

Butternut Squash said...

That was a beautiful post. I really appreciate the care with which you pieced it all together.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Here from David's. Wonderful memorial. Good for Idaho!

Anonymous said...

Here from authorblog.

Definitely the kind of memorial service each individual who serves our country deserves.

Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing.

Erika Henderson-Morse said...

I'm totally in tears and it makes in even sadder to know that very few people in Santa Cruz would respect this type of ceremony, even if they are ignorant college students, it's still sad. This is a GREAT POST!