Memorial Day On The Highground
They come for a variety of reasons, all with the fundamental idea of not allowing the memories of fallen comrades or loved ones to die with the passing of the years. For some it’s their first visit to The Highground. For most, however, it’s a return trip.
Coming to The Highground for the Memorial Day observance has become a tradition for Marshfield’s T & T Riders. For a number of years, it has marked their motorcycle club’s first official ride of the year. “We have about 20 bikes and several cars – about 40 to 50 people in all,” said Randy, a spokesman for the group. “A bunch of us are veterans and would have come anyway,” he added. (Each year The Highground also gratefully receives a sizeable donation from their members.)
My sister’s neighbor’s brother died in Vietnam,” said a woman visitor from Durand. “She couldn’t bring herself to come here to find the name herself, so she asked my sister and I to come [and find it for her].” I’m from here in town,” said Ernest Schwellenbach. “I’ve been out here a lot. It takes an awful lot of maintenance, doesn’t it?
“I’m a Vietnam vet – I come here quite often,” said Ronald Hahn, of Edgar, WI. “It’s quite . . . . well, it’s a place where you want to come back to. I brought the grandkids today to show them – to learn a bit about the service.”
“This is a beautiful memorial,” Ronald’s wife, Carolyn added. “My dad’s a retired Air Force man. He’s from Arizona and has been all around the United States. He says The Highground is the most impressive one [veterans memorial] he’s ever seen. It’s so beautifully kept up and always inviting. You can tell there’s a lot of heart here.”
“We came from Minneapolis to pay respects to our fallen brothers . . . . that they’re not forgotten,” said an unidentified Vietnam veteran formerly from Eau Claire. “When I get back there, I try to come to The Highground too. I was involved back in the early 80’s, when it was just a sand pile. [Now] it’s the most beautiful place in the state. We’re lucky to live near here. This is a place we call home. . . . The Highground is particularly important – especially for our children.”
The ceremony is about to begin. Approximately 150 people gather to form a circle. After a short introduction, a vial of The Highground earth is passed in clockwise fashion, one person at a time, giving everyone an opportunity to speak or observe a moment of silence. Quivering lips recall sacrifices made. Names are spoken in remembrance. Tears fall quietly. A silent thought is offered from a heart unable to speak.
Admonitions are made to remember those still suffering – from WWI through Desert Storm. Thanks are given for those who sacrificed so much. The earth-filled vial has completed its journey around the circle. Veteran volunteers representing Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, and WWII take the vial to The Dove. Each one takes a portion of the earth and ceremoniously sprinkles it on this special tribute, which honors all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.
One person standing with those remaining on the Plaza begins to sing, “God Bless America”. Others join in. As the last refrains float into the hillsides, some of those gathered go to meet the warriors returning from The Dove. It’s Memorial Day on The Highground.
Memorial Day Doesn’t Tell A War
-for somebody who once wore it
I cry today the Memorial an unforgotten war
Highground a hypnotized people
An empty wind an uneasy belief
stirs chimes and hills that a Persian Gulf
echoes the flood plain fresh new war
to Southeast Asia. Can heal another.
I smell a country It stings like yesterday
taste a soldier’s fear twenty-five years later.
feel burning straw A generation of peace
hear a twig still missing in action
a mother’s heart the human race
and a story break still prisoners of war.
on the six o’clock news.
Sculptured bronze war memories fade
metal bodies for those who don’t touch it
freeze time but the green patch of cloth
and history placed in the center
for a nation too easily of the Memorial Day wreath
forgot the words, speaks an authentic story
“never again.” tells a war.
A somebody once wore it.
A national flag
snaps to attention
salutes a lonely wind by: Barbara Kaufman