Memorial Day at Waldoboro

Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Features

Memorial Day at Waldoboro

by Steve Cartwright

I strolled down our sunny Main Street, robins chirping, lilacs in bloom, to join fellow townspeople who turned out for Waldoboro’s simple Memorial Day tradition. A parade. The anthem sung by a young girl. A patriotic speech by a retired Navy man. An ear-splitting rifle salute.

A wreath tossed silently into the Medomak River...I thought of the song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, a powerful and sad song that for me dovetails with Memorial Day.

One line from the windy speech stuck with me long after Main Street was deserted. Something about how our young women and men should not be sent into war, and inevitable death, unless it’s justified. When was war just? World War II?


The U.S. has been fighting different wars since I was born more than half century ago, and arguably not one of them was justified. Certainly not the attack on Iraq, which has wasted the lives of many U.S. soldiers and more tens of thousands of Iraqi people. Certainly not the unwinnable Afghan war, our revenge against many for 9-11. We’ve now killed as many innocent people in Afghanistan as the 9-11 attackers did innocent Americans in 2001.

But how innocent are we as a nation?


Former Green Beret Ron Barend of Waldoboro

We label people as terrorists, but our own violent actions are called “Operation Enduring Freedom,” even if that includes locking people away without trial, torture and assassination. The U.S. seems unable to look at itself from the outside, to see how others view our belligerent foreign policy; our unconditional support for Israel’s endless oppression of Palestine comes to mind.

We tell Iran they can’t have nuclear weapons. But we have a giant stockpile of them. Schools are trying to discourage bullying but our nation bullies other nations all over the world, for the most part with disastrous results.

We claim we’re doing it for freedom and democracy, but it often looks like we’re really after money, power, resources. I guess there’s a lot that we can write off as human nature, but that’s an awfully polite term for greed, brutality and exploitation. I watched the wreath as a strong river current carried it away. My father served as a U.S. Army officer during World War II. He never told stories that glorified that horrible chapter in world history.

I’m not sure war ever moves humanity forward. I think the direction is backward, to primitive and destructive acts that darken the pages of history, and our souls. You can pray for peace, but I think the struggle to make this a sustainable, just and peaceful planet is really up to us.

We just keep getting in our own way.

As Pete Seeger lamented:


Where have all the soldiers gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

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