Pancakes, prayers for vets

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After a pair of two-hour round-trips to Chesaw in as many days, Juliette and I were content with today's assignment, a Memorial Day pancake breakfast just a few miles down the road. It was a fundraiser for the Republic Volunteer Fire Department; the firefighters flipped elderberry pancakes and monitored frying eggs and ham where the firetrucks usually park.

Hundreds of locals and not-so-locals filled long wood benches, eating and drinking. Over coffee, Lois McConnell told us about her granddaughter's husband, a tech sergeant at the Fairchild Air Force base near Spokane. He's been deployed five times, she said, and just got back from the latest one. Now, he's on security duty at the base, and lives there with McConnell's granddaughter, Joanna, and their four children.

He wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, paces the perimeter of the room, and accuses Joanna of talking to other men in the bathroom. She doesn't feel safe with the children there anymore, McConnell said. "When I wake up and my granddaughter and her four children are sleeping on my floor, you know there's a problem"‚ McConnell said.

After the breakfast, Juliette sat down to edit her photos and I went to a Memorial Day ceremony at the Republic Cemetery, up on the hill. A few score people huddled under umbrellas while the American Legion fired off a salute into the rain. There were 244 flags in the cemetery for the holiday, including one for an unknown set of remains. Marilyn, one of the cemetery caretakers, sang Angel at a podium underneath the flagpole; the loudspeaker was sheltered by a leopard print umbrella.

Fred Bremner, a Legionnaire and cemetery board member, made a plea for donations to both. The crowd broke in the drizzle, some heading to their cars, others lingering to chat around the flag. Hugh Macomber, an 87-year-old World War II veteran, said the ceremony used to be longer, but the aging Legionnaires can no longer stand at attention for very long. He mentioned a veteran who he said will likely be finding a final resting place in the cemetery soon: a 101-year-old female World War II veteran suffering from kidney failure at the hospital.

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