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Memorial Weekend        25 May 2008

Sid Note:    The following was posted on a USN/USCG Chief Petty Officer forum as a contribution to the observation of Memorial Day (at one time - it was called Decoration Day)

The author is Cdr. Ed Bookhardt, a retired SeaBee with 30+ years active Navy service who worked his way up through the ranks.    He writes darn good  too.   More:    A Saigon Christmas  A DECEMBER REMEMBERED

Ed gives a little background about Stones Of Gray
By Commander Edward L. Bookhardt, US Navy, Retired
I stand in solemn reverence, alone,  --   yet, not alone  --   gazing out over the rolling green fields marked with row upon row of carved and polished…   Stones of gray.

The warm May breeze, softly brushes my face on its journey across the placid expanse of this hallowed place. Setting in motion the red, white and blue colors of the starry banners which have been placed with loving care beside the resting places of those we have come to honor.

All seems still, except for the muted sounds of fluttering flags, accompanied occasionally by the melodious solo of a mockingbird perched atop a nearby stone. The stillness brings a sudden chill, which shakes my very being. A feeling of helpless concern for my own mortality creeps over me. I sense a deep loneliness, yet I am not alone.

The familiar sounds of military commands and the rustling of ceremonial formations suddenly interrupt my somber thoughts. The bugler's haunting strains of “Taps” brings me to rigid attention and I salute… each note echoing through my soul as a misty glaze fills my eyes. My once gleaming uniform, as the features of my aging face are now showing the inevitable wear of time…not unlike the weathered gray stones that surround me.

For a brief moment, beneath this beribboned breast beat a brave and proud young warrior's heart. Filled with the magic memories of bygone times in far-off lands. I pull myself up, to stand just a bit taller as we who have assembled pay homage to our fallen kindred.

Many who came on this Memorial Day have now departed. Once again, I stand alone, but I am not alone, for my comrades remain in silent steadfast ranks. Each proudly mustering for their eternal watch. I turn to go, then pause, turn again and salute once more… the mockingbird as in some ceremonial “fly-by” spreads its feathery wings, then gently rises to float effortlessly on the warm May breeze across the emerald field of starry banners and Stones of Gray.



Some background about the writing of Stones Of Gray      by Cdr. Ed Bookhardt    USN/Ret.
A few years back I was asked by the Editor of the VFW Leader to write a Memorial Day piece for the May issue of the publication. Coincidentally, local civic members also approached me to be a guest speaker for their annual Memorial Day program. I was deeply honored and accepted. For a number of days thereafter I rolled the subject over in my mind but could not find the direction to proceed, or words that seemed appropriate for such a sacred and solemn occasion. As I continued to wrestle with my tangled thoughts doubt and frustration sat in…

To clear my mind, I decided to journey to the cemetery where the program was to be held. As I walked the rolling green hills reading random markers along my path, my thought drifted to Arlington and other National Cemeteries I had visited during my military career. Stopping momentarily I gazed unseeing over the granite stones about me… images of those hallowed places came into focus overwhelming me with emotion.

As if pre written by some magical scribe, the words that had eluded me came pouring forth. Though it is brief I am very pleased with this piece as it has brought many positive and moving comments. It has been published a number of times, the latest as the Memorial Day Editorial in the Saint Augustine Record. The VFW Commander-in-Chief also used it in a national address. It follows, for you to decide its merits.