There is a cemetery just over the Massachusetts line, coming from southern New Hampshire. As old graveyards go, it’s pretty standard fare for an old New England town. The stones are mostly slate, cool and a dark silver-blue.
Many years ago, a good friend of mine took me there on an overcast Veteran’s Day to see something unusual. Something easily over looked by the casual observer. As we walked out onto the mown grass, dotted with brown and crunchy leaves, we stepped carefully along the rows of stone and loss. Here and there, a place was left empty in the lines of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Places where the markers had fallen to the earth and been swallowed up by the passing of time. As is usual in these places, little flags flew at the foot of many of the stones. Men who had joined up to fight for their country in its many hours of need. The small banners of red white and blue fluttered silently in the early November breeze.
I looked with some interest at the various inscriptions to see where and when these brave souls served. Some had been in the War of 1812; some white marble stones showed the resting places of those who had gone to fight against the Confederate States during the American Civil War. Several were veterans of the Revolution of 1776. The original American Patriots.
As we rounded a row of leaning stones, a small flag caught my eye. My friend was already standing there looking down and reading the inscription. Here lay the mortal remains of a man who had served his country and died while in its service. He had not been killed in action but must have succumbed from an accident or illness. The stone told us little more than his name, rank, age and unit he served with. The diminutive Union Jack fluttered proudly. Here lay a junior officer of the Royal British Army, having passed away in a land far from home and his roots. He had died in 1772, a loyal subject of his Majesty, the King of England.
With his hour of passing, this man had missed so much suffering and conflict that was to come. Where he would have wound up, is pure speculation. Would he have been true to his station and employ? Would he have fought the Rebels with his all or, like many who had lived here among the colonists for so long, would he have defected from the ranks and become a quiet farmer with land of his own to plow? Who is to know?
What was left is a tastefully decorated slate, leaning with time and a small British flag placed by those whom he would never know. It flies among the flags of a country that he would never live to see emerge. Today is Veteran’s Day and today, I shall remember him. Though his name has slipped my mental grasp, I’ll imagine him walking happily along on a sunny day, long, long ago. Down a cart path and into the village he would go, thinking how full of marvel and opportunity this new land was.
Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Nostalgia, Ruminating, Writing | Tagged: cemetery, flag, grave marker, grave stone, remembrance day, revolution, revolutionary war, soldier, union jack, Veteran, veteran's day |