Harp: Memorial Day Is Solemn Business

Allan Appel PhotoMayor Toni Harp asked people to pause on Memorial Day to ponder the “totality and finality” of what “killed in action” means.

The mayor delivered a passionate, controlled message as she presided for the first time over the city’s Memorial Day solemnities and laid a wreath at the World War One Memorial Flagpole on a brilliantly sunlit Sunday afternoon.

About 25 people, mainly aging veterans and their family members, settled into the folding chairs provided, while an equal number of passers-by and tourists paused on their promenades. Together they took in the Pledge of Allegiance, the speeches, a moving rendition of “God Bless America” offered by Ruth Rosa, and the wreath-laying beneath the names of the dead from the horrific World War One battles of Verdun, Meuse-Argonne, and Marne.

Finally, the old soldiers stood especially erect, their salutes sharp as a recorded playing of taps spread across the Green.

“We forget it’s a solemn occasion,” the mayor told the gathering.

“The nature of war has certainly evolved over time, and let me assure you: Just in my lifetime the manner in which wars are fought has changed dramatically. But the totality and finality of ‘killed in action’ has not changed and will never change.

“When we so casually talk about these young men and women making the ‘ultimate’ sacrifice, we have to stop for a minute and think about what that means.”

The speakers who followed the mayor echoed and underscored her solemnity.

So so did someone who declined to participate. Sitting some 25 yards away from the flagpole, Ali Shabbazz chose to maintain his distance.

“It don’t make me sad” or happy, said Shabbazz, a practicing Muslim who attends the Masjid-Al-Islam on George Street and other Muslim places of worship in the area.

Shabbazz offered that Muslims and Christians both have a history of slaying themselves and each other. So the holiday “makes me God-conscious, because God says, ‘No killing!’”

“To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die,” Lt. Colonel (Retired) Kenneth Gertz said in the ceremony’s closing remarks.

He urged attendees to think on that on a day like today. “We wear our uniforms today for those who can’t.”

If the event lacked numbers, it had the seriousness and concentration of those in attendance. Among them was Carl Harvey, a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Navy.  Although he’s not himself of Ukrainian heritage, in 1991 he and his wife - were she alive they’d be celebrating 50 years of marriage this month—founded the Ukrainian American Veterans Post 33, which meets at St. Michael’s Church on George Street.

“We’re down to nine members and most are disabled [and couldn’t be here]. I’m here for myself, her [his wife, a Ukrainian by birth], and the members of my organization.”

“This event will continue even if only two people are here,” said Air Force Master Sergeant (Retired) Frank Alvarado, the chairman of the ceremonies and also a member of the Mayor’s Veterans’ Affairs Advisory Committee, which organizes the proceedings every year.

The wreath laying at the flagpole was the middle event of three. Earlier Alvarado, Army Colonel (Retired) Servio Fodero, the head of the committee, and other officials laid wreaths at the Vietnam Memorial “V” down at Long Wharf.

At 5 p.m., a concert was scheduled for the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University. It’s the 17th annual Memorial Day concert. The concert has taken the place of the parade, which had not been well attended, said Alvarado.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 25, 2014  6:59pm

Mayor Toni Harp asked people to pause on Memorial Day to ponder the “totality and finality” of what “killed in action” means.
After his retirement Major General Smedley Darlington Butler wrote.

WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 25, 2014  7:02pm

My bad.

As we have said, the bankers are for bullets—for the fool patriots that enlist at paupers’ wages to stop the bullets, while the bankers clip coupons, boost food prices, increase dividends, and pile up millions and billions for themselves. Say, Mr. Workingman, suppose you have sense enough to be as patriotic as the banker, but not a bit more so. When you see the bankers on the firing line with guns in their hands ready to stop bullets as well as start them, then it is time enough for you to be seized with the patriotic itch and have yourself shot into a crazy-quilt for their profit and glory. Don’t you take a fit and rush to the front until you see them there. They own the country and if they don’t set the example of fighting for it, why should you?

Eugene Victor Debs

posted by: robn on May 26, 2014  2:12pm

It’s a good thing for fools wishing to speak freely that Debs didn’t get his way or we would have all been living voiceless under fascist pseudo Marxists.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 26, 2014  9:33pm

posted by: robn on May 26, 2014 2:12pm

It’s a good thing for fools wishing to speak freely that Debs didn’t get his way or we would have all been living voiceless under fascist pseudo Marxists.

But as capitalism refers to accumulation of capital and creation of big businesses, it is similar to fascism.Government favors and, in many cases, creates mono/oligopolies.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 26, 2014  9:37pm

My bad

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler was not a fascist.

posted by: 32knot on May 27, 2014  8:52am

Is the Mayor saluting in the last picture?? That would be inappropriate.

While Butler’s comments are correct in that his service was spent protecting and expanding American business interests, it should be noted that he did not serve in any of the great causes that did bring honor to the sacrifices to those we remeber on Memorial Day, notably WWI which was not fought for the business interests.