Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

There’s some May sadness, too

June 1, 2006

As we put the wraps on what was the busiest May I ever remember and head into what looks to be the busiest June of all time, it's time for some reflection.

May was full of the usual school-ending free-for-all and this year we had the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack thrown in on top of it. That's been wild to watch and be a part of. If you've missed it somehow, the anniversary is Friday at the battlefield east of Baldwin City. Should be a good one.

But, for many and me included, May was graduation time. Of course, in Baldwin we had the usual doubleheader with Baldwin High School commencement on Saturday, followed by Baker University's ceremonies Sunday.

This year's graduations were special to most people, but for some, even more so. When I think of that, I think of Dan Lambert. After 19 years of donning the graduation regalia at Baker in his role as president, Sunday was the finale. Lambert had an incredible tenure at Baker and will be sorely missed, not only on campus, but also in the community.

But, he's not the only one that will be leaving the community. Most Baker graduates will say goodbye, as will the majority of BHS grads, whether that's for good or just to start that next step in college, trade school or armed services.

As for me, I went through graduation, too, and it meant a host of emotions ... and the retirement of my Bulldog tie. Brett graduated from Drake University May 14 Summa Cum Laude with a straight 4.0 firmly in hand.

It was a good ceremony, mostly from that standpoint. But, there was one wild event. I hadn't read the commencement program other than to spot his name while keeping an eye out for my other son, Anthony, to get there. He was running late. It was the usual graduation fare, including the awarding of an honorary degree to some old woman for the hundreds of songs she had written over the years, mostly hymns. Yawn.

However, when they went to award the next honorary degree, I about fell out of my chair in Drake's impressive gym with the Final Four banners hanging. It was Cloris Leachman. Yes, that Cloris Leachman. The well known, award-winning actress is from Des Moines, Iowa, where Drake is located, which I didn't know. She got her start in acting in Drake's Children's Theatre. I was stunned. But, I was absolutely captivated by her speech. To say she stole the show is an understatement. She was hilarious, something you don't expect too much of at such stodgy affairs.

Other than that, it was pretty much graduation as usual. Well, it was a little too long. Too many speakers. They should have ended it with Leachman. But, there were too many people that had to say "reach for the stars," "your life is just starting" and "the future of our country is in your hands." Blah, blah, blah. Give him the diploma and let's go.

It was a glorious day, though, to see four hard years pay off. It didn't come without sadness, either. I've worn the Bulldog tie for each of my son's graduations from junior high and again from high school. Prior to Drake's graduation, yes, the mascot there is the Bulldog, I asked Brett if it was OK to wear it. He said, "of course."

But, May isn't just about graduations. Another favorite tradition of mine is the annual Memorial Day celebration at Oakwood Cemetery put on by the local American Legion Post. This year's was no exception. The usual crowd was on hand and the usual memorials, both in prayer and speech, again took center stage.

John Musgrave, a decorated wounded veteran of the Vietnam War, gave an excellent speech. After knowing him for years, I knew that he would. He made great points on many levels, including that when soldiers are at war, it's not about whatever politics that put them there, it's about staying alive. He also remarked that Memorial Day is the best holiday we have and I'm not so sure he's not right. This year, there was more of an emphasis on what Memorial Day is -- remembering those who have died to win and protect our freedom -- rather than the first holiday of the summer and those three days at the lake. That point was well taken.

But, there was something more that struck me from the service and even more so after a good, long talk I had with a good friend Tuesday night who I hadn't seen for awhile and whose son has served in Iraq and might again. What hit me at the service, though, was the Rev. Ira DeSpain, Baker University minister, again giving the opening prayer. He was again dedicating it to his son, Dan, who has served valiantly in Iraq and returned there recently for another stint.

I can't imagine what that puts parents through. After talking to my friend Tuesday night, I can't imagine it even more. It's not just that they're there living amid chaos. It's what they're like when they return. They aren't the same. How can they be? We can only imagine the horrors of war. To live them is another matter.

There are plenty of statistics thrown around about casualties. "Only" 3,000 have died, which pales in comparison to other wars. But, how many civilians have perished? I was shocked to learn after two CBS journalists were killed Monday and a third seriously wounded that 71 journalists have died in Iraq. That's 71. Who knows how many more American civilians have died there and how many thousands of more Iraqi civilians have died.

However, it's not just that. As my friend and I were discussing, yes the statistics are low on how many soldiers have died. But, how many have been wounded? My friend was touched by one of the things her son said about when he returned state side to an Army camp. He couldn't believe the number of soldiers walking around without arms and legs.

No, the medical treatment our soldiers receive is second to none. Doctors are immediately at the site of injury, saving countless lives. The same can't be said of limbs.

Yes, we need to remember those who have died for us serving our country. We also need to never forget the sacrifices made by others, who made it out, but will never be the same.

Wars have gone on as long as there have been humans to fight them. Wasn't the Revolutionary War enough? How about the Civil War, which got its start 150 years ago just east of here? What about World War I, the war to end all wars? No, it had a sequel. There are too many others that could be mentioned and who knows how many more to follow? There is no end in sight.

For that, we can only have sadness.

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