There is an old cemetery, on Route 125 in Kingston, New Hampshire. When the last of its bodies was interred, it was still on a country road. There wouldn’t have been electricity or automobiles or penicillin when the last of its bodies was interred. Kingston, New Hampshire would have been a hard place to get to back then, and you can still miss it if you aren’t paying attention when you get to that set of lights where Route 125 bears right and some other road continues straight.
The cemetery is bounded on all four sides by a low stone wall, which is slowly becoming a low stone pile. You enter through a little white wooden gate in the middle of the front wall. Unless you’re me and you hop over one of the side walls looking for cell phone service on Friday. And on Friday, there were American flags silently waving over some of the the gravestones.
John Quimby was there, as were Israel and Captain James Collins. Other graves marked with flags were so worn that you couldn’t read their inscriptions. But somebody knew, somebody knew who the soldiers were, and somebody remembered. And somebody wanted us to know that they were there.
Today we remember these people, and all the men and women who came after them, and are themselves interred in a plot with a flag waving above it. We remember them because as much we might wish for a better, more peaceable way to resolve conflict, we know that human reality has always included military encounters, and these are the people who particpated. We remember them, these people from the past, because they fought for a cause, and that cause was “America.”
“America” is what brought the managing editor’s family here in the late ’60’s, when the communists in China posed a serious threat to Hong Kong. “America” is what brought my mother’s parents here from the Canadian Maritime Provinces in the nineteen-teens looking for work and a better life. “America” is was caused a collegue and his wife to travel to a small orphange on one of the lesser islands of the Phillippines and adopt twin 8-year old boys just about a year ago.
People still come, and people still seek to be free, and people still believe in “America.” And all those flags on all those gravestones in all the cemeteries in every place in America, we need to remember.
New graves are still being dug, and new flags are still being placed, on our war dead. To thousands and thousands of Americans, the name on the gravestone does not belong to an unknown person. It belongs to a husband, a sister, a brother, a wife, a college roommate, a father, a mother, a friend. Today, some Americans will stand in front of a grave and tears will roll down their checks, because they remember, they remember, the person lying quiet and still in the gentle hands of the earth.
Today, we remember them all. [Permalink] - Carolyn Donovan