The Over-the-Hill Gang

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Like many other old veterans I visited Cedar Hill Cemetery on Veterans Day to see who was still among us and to pay respects to those who were not. Judging by white hair and well-worn faces I surmised many were from World War II or the Korean Conflict as not much time elapsed between those two wars. Others were young enough to have endured Vietnam and a few may have been participants in Desert Storm. As they arrived in that beautiful cemetery by ones and twos I began to feel as though I were part of a brother-hood of men of all ages that had worn a military uniform. I wondered if some of the women there had also served. To see the flag unfurled, pulled to the top of the pole and then brought down to half-staff almost made my knees buckle. That particular flag ceremony is a sight I witnessed many times in yesteryears, plus every morning and every evening of my stateside military term we formed up for revelry and evening retreat. It was always a sad occasion when the stars and stripes were raised and immediately lowered half way. The first time I saw it was when President Roosevelt died. We were sad that he didn’t live to see us end the war.

During combat overseas we seldom saw the American flag unless we were pulled back from the front to rest areas. It wasn’t carried into battle as in earlier wars. No matter where that rest area was located it became an oasis and we could get clean, shave if we could grow whiskers, eat ice cream, drink cold soda pop, and maybe see Bob Hope. It thrilled us to see the flag again, flying high on a pole in the camp. Those thoughts came to me that day in Cedar Hill and I could imagine all us old-timers being young again, back in a rest area, arriving from different outfits and comforted to see we had not been alone out there. And just as it had been 58 years ago, some needed crutches.

It was my first visit to Cedar Hill Cemetery on Veterans Day and probably my last. I expect to be around a year from now but some might not. All of us, I’m sure, would like to have seen a memorial to World War II up in the D.C. Mall, but at the rate they say we are passing on we probably won’t. At 78 I am a &uot;young&uot; veteran of that war. One thing about the ceremony that struck me as odd was that the speaker for the event, and he had some mighty nice things to say about us, was an Admiral, young enough to be my son.

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Perhaps you too noticed that the Suffolk Council Retreat was toned down considerably, was held closer to home, less expensive, and without the services of a facilitator. Whoever set up the retreat last time had a wise financial change of heart. Some com-muted, others hung around for bonding. Now they are back and sorting through the applications for City Manager. They do this behind closed doors and apparently don’t want any advice. I’m betting on Steve Herbert because it’s up to Council to decide and I think their minds were made up months ago, by at least 4 to 3. But what’s with Melody Green?

Remember the Phoenix Bank building over on Washington, the one with the Chinese take-out on the first floor, the bank Andy Damiani &uot;bought&uot; and subsequently lost due to the expertise of downtown coordinator, Mary McCoury? Don’t be surprised if the City buys it for Councilman Brown who wants an African-American Museum located there. Surely there will be a task force appointed to debate that issue, as there was for the American Indians. I think that city buy decision was made months ago and they waited a decent interval hoping the public would forget about their cleverness. Andy certainly hasn’t.

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Chuck and Karen Maxcy, wrote the Editor from their home in Lexington Park, Md. and took me to task for missing out on the noise and &uot;fun&uot; of the Dismal Swamp Rumble. Those two wouldn’t recognize humor if they were laughing at it and misinterpreted my column so they could paint me as an old man who never has fun, dislikes motorcycles and the people who ride them. They further pointed out that had I joined the merriment I could have met many &uot;wonderful citizens like doctors, lawyers, and military people.&uot; I guess that’s supposed to indicate that even educated persons ride muscular bikes. Well, I’ll be honest, I am very glad I did not get to meet Chuck and Karen or their lovely motorcycle. One owned me for a few years and I got rid of it before it could kill me.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.