As it’s West Point’s Cadet Choir performing for Medal of Honor winners, , expect a large crowd, so come early to River Market Annex, but only a moderate crowd fills this pavilion. Some cadets mill around its edges, chatting with older men obviously of World War II vintage.
People continue to drift in. Gray-haired men, in baseball caps insignia-ed with ship names remembered from sea battle news stories; an occasional VFW or American Legion uniform.
Women, a bit more tentative, follow, allow their escorts to seat them, and watch as men mingle, chat, and, occasionally, awkwardly hug.
An emcee introduces West Point’s choir and an obligatory “Star-Spangled Banner” brings all to our feet; hats or hands over hearts; voices booming with pride for a country served with honor.
Alternating choir songs and speeches meant as patriotic, but pale, compared with these heroes filling this pavilion. Finally, formal festivities conclude, & West Point’s choirmaster invites veterans by service area to stand as those songs identified with their branch of service is sung.
As each song’s first notes ring out, chairs scape, and these old, sometimes frail men, rise, erect, stiff-backed, “uncovered”, thumbs aligned with trouser seams… heads high, eyes forward… and following concluding words, bask in applause from those who, irrespective of duty branch, appreciate the honor of their service.
As “Over There” is introduced, I rise, and tears fill my eyes to be included among such men and women… to have been even some small part of a citizenry who’d placed their lives at risk for a country we love.
In our time, military service no longer bonds great numbers of men & women of differing economic, educational & geographical backgrounds. Plus, “warriors”, except among their loved ones, are offered little public recognition.
Perhaps that it how it should be… but, to minimize those who put their lives on the line, that those of us at home might live free, seems a sad indictment for our collective sense of appreciation and respect. We should do better.