To mark Memorial Day, our family joined another and traveled to the Museum of Flight. The parking lot was filled to the brim with cars and fathers showing off their kid-manangement abilities. Lots of magnets on the cars, some “Impeachment!” stickers… a real mix of people as one would expect on Memorial Day in Seattle.
It’s the ninth year the museum has marked the day with tributes to those who fought and died in war. This year, the events had special honors for the Tuskegee Airmen as well as recognition for those from the WA area who have died in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
My father went into Army Air in June of 1944, an 18 y.o. wise-ass Yankee pilot in training through the very deep South. His stories of the training time there were enough – witnessing the aftermath of lynchings, having a small child die in his arms after an accident, sabotaging the efforts of a CO who was a Klansman. I looked at the men in uniforms, in baseball hats that commemorated their squadrons and platoons, and saw something of my father that day, in their age and collective memory. Weathered hands and eyes.
What struck me most, though, was the ceremony where three retired military officers read through the names of servicewomen and men who lost their lives in this most recent set of conflicts. They explained that these were people with ties to Washington State. Each of the officers held a stack of cards, an inch thick from where I was standing. They took turns reading off ranks, names, and affiliations.
Older folks (60+) sat quietly in chairs with hands folded. Some younger people with their children sat and listened to the roll being read. And all around the periphery of the small theatre, there were the excited footsteps of kids looking at the airplane exhibits, from peacetime and war.