Salute to veterans

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Can we take a moment and just appreciate what a treasure Herb Foster is to have around?

We loved his piece in last week’s Community section providing some of the history behind the military, in general, and World War II, in particular.

Some of the things he wrote about were things we already knew, of course, but they were fun to be reminded about — like the true meaning behind the acronym SNAFU. But there were other things that we never knew, but found fascinating — like the history behind “Jody cadence.” We particularly enjoyed Foster’s anecdote from three years ago: “We veterans marched from the Legion Post in Vineyard Haven into the cemetery and back to the Legion Post. As we marched back, someone from the First Cavalry with spurs on his shoes and a big Cavalry hat started leading us in a Jody cadence. We marchers suddenly came alive, the pace picked up, our bodies started to move as one, and there was an electricity to our marching. It was beautiful to watch and to participate.”

And some of it was humorous, albeit sexist, like the item about “Maggie’s drawers.” It certainly wouldn’t be acceptable today, but those were different times. “Out of the loudspeaker came, ‘Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line, Maggie’s drawers, commence firing.’ When the words ‘Maggie’s drawers’ were sounded, a long, thin pole was waved back and forth with a pair of women’s bloomers attached.”

Foster’s piece closed with this thought: “It is my fervent wish that the information presented above brought back positive and thoughtful memories for veterans; and for nonveterans, served to inform them what a loved family member or friend experienced and, sometimes, talked about.”

We’d say you nailed it, Herb.

The weather certainly cooperated for Monday’s tribute to veterans on the Island. It was a sun-splashed and unseasonably warm morning for the short, but moving, march from Nancy’s Restaurant to Ocean Park. What a pleasure it is to have the addition of Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee and his bagpipe playing prowess for these ceremonies.

Once again, Oak Bluffs was considered by the Veterans Day National Committee as the only regional site in Massachusetts, a designation by the Veterans Administration that it is a “fitting observance.”
“Oak Bluffs is being recognized for the ninth year in a row, mainly because of former veterans agent Jo Ann Murphy,” said Peter Hermann, the chair for Monday’s parade.

Murphy deserves our gratitude for all she has done and continues to do for veterans on the Island, even as she has passed the torch to Bruce Montrose as the county’s veterans services agent.

On social media where it seems never a day goes by that people aren’t sniping about something, there were tributes to family and friends who have served. We loved seeing all the old photographs. It would seem that one thing most of us can agree on is that those who chose the path of the military deserve our respect and gratitude.

And Veterans Day put the Steamship Authority in the giving spirit. The ferry service offered free passage to veterans. 

At the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, hundreds of people showed up Saturday to plant American flags at each of the 70,000 graves. Operation Flags for Vets was created by Paul Monti, the father of SFC Jared Monti, a Medal of Honor recipient who died in the war in Afghanistan in 2006, attempting to rescue a soldier who was injured in a firefight. Monti is buried in the Bourne cemetery. There were kids just barely old enough to walk to senior citizens — and everyone in between — volunteering to place flags at every headstone. They made quick work of it. Since 2011, Paul Monti has organized a small army of volunteers to decorate graves with flags on both Veterans Day and Memorial Day. 

It’s a touching tribute.

There were wonderful tributes across the country to veterans, particularly to World War II veterans, whom we are losing at a rate of more than 360 per day — many of them well into their 90s, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On the Island we lost Ted Morgan of Edgartown, who was a paratrooper and was a part of the invasion of Normandy. Morgan died in April at 97, less than two months before the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

All the more reason to salute and cherish people like Herb Foster.