A Different Drummer?
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
There are those who march to the beat of a different drummer in science, art, and even religion, but the drumbeat of the American Nation has persistently been that same drumbeat of Liberty and Freedom which has both defended and protected this Nation Under God for these several centuries.
I had the great honor and privilege yesterday to participate in Veterans Day Activities for my hometown of Enterprise, Alabama – named by Rand McNally as one of the sixth most patriotic cities in America. We are ideally situated for that honor since Enterprise is also home to Fort Rucker and the US Army Aviation School. Many of our citizens are veterans, retirees, or active duty military whose last home (assignment) was the Afghani or Iraqi Theater of Operations.
The day’s Veterans Day observance began, appropriately, at the Enterprise Wall of Freedom: “In honor of those who have fallen on the field of battle to protect our freedoms.” The wreath-laying ceremony was opened by the VFW Senior Vice-Commander, Jim Rathburn. As VFW Post 6683 Chaplain, it was my honor to open the ceremonies with prayer. The event was jointly sponsored by the service organizations of Enterprise including the VFW (&Auxiliary), the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, etc. All was planned and coordinated by the VFW Commander, Bob Cooper, with the advice and assistance of Harold Skelton, American Legion Post Commander, and others.
The keynote speaker was Mayor Ken Boswell of Enterprise who reminded all of the sacrifices, not only of our veterans, but the families who remained home and waited and watched for their return, and to those who are presently serving in defense of our great nation. Dignitaries from Fort Rucker included LTC Ron Nelson (USMA Class of ’96), Command Sergeant Major Sutterfield, Sergeant Major Iwai, and a contingent of dedicated troops from Fort Rucker and the National Guard. The ceremony was concluded by a lone bugler (Bill Blackstock) playing taps. It was a time of reflection and gratitude to our courageous Armed Forces.
My most heart-warming experience of the day came at 6:00 PM at which time the elements of the Veterans Day parade moved from the assembly area at Trinity Bank onto the main line of march down Main Street. I presented a bazaar sight as Chaplain riding in back of a 1942 Army jeep alongside a mounted fifty cal. machine gun with ammo belt dangling (praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition). The Enterprise High School Big Blue Band moved onto the line of march about four elements ahead of my vehicle. They were sharp and attractive in the neat blue uniforms, and constituted a picture of youthful dedication that is difficult for me to describe – the finest gathering of fine young ladies and men of which I am aware. As they moved into line of march, raindrops began to sprinkle on the route of march. I began to despair for these young bandsmen, and I silently worried that the weather would affect their performance – IT DID NOT! They played a beautiful rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, and they played it just the same way that I had marched to it on the Plain of West Point more than fifty years ago. The drum beat was the same, and the dignity of the occasion was of equal quality and enhanced by the rain.
As the parade continued down main street, the rain intensity increased to a light downpour, but these young heroes of the band did not skip a beat. I could see the steady advance of the colors ahead of the band, and the colorful display of flag-twirlers above the heads of the band. They were impressive for their dedication, musical expertise, and patriotic zeal. They ceased not their performance until the full course of the parade route was traversed. Whatever disappointments I had harbored for modern American youth began to evaporate. My heart swelled with pride for Enterprise and the great, traditional American values our city and schools represent.
At the termination of the parade, we had a post-parade gathering indoors (thank goodness) at the new Farmers Market. As we entered the meeting hall, three lovely young ladies of Enterprise High School (Misses Taylor Rester, Alex Sebren, and Malia Sauer under direction of EHS’s Cameron Johnson) greeted us with the singing of God Bless America. I have never heard that Irving Berlin piece sung with such beauty and grace – even surpassing that of the wonderful Kate Smith.
The ceremony at the Farmers Market was much like the one at the Wall of Freedom with one exception – following warm and encouraging remarks by Mayor Ken Boswell, LTC Ron Nelson gave a heartfelt and inspiring account of a young U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan who fell on a grenade when it was thrown into an area in which he was treating a wounded Marine. Without hesitation, he fell on the grenade. As Providence would have it, the grenade did not explode, so he tossed it some distance away at which time it did, indeed, explode. After that exhibition of courage and self-sacrifice, the medic wasted no time in returning to his treatment of the wounded Marine. His action exemplifies the highest traditions of the US Armed Services. There was, too, a moving ceremony dedicated to our fallen soldiers conducted by EHS ROTC. The undertakings of the day were concluded by our VFW bugler, Bill Blackstock, playing Taps, who never misses a note.
As I left, the drumbeat of the Big Blue Band echoed, and re-echoed, in my memory; and I suddenly realized “that this was the same drumbeat of American Liberty and Freedom I have been privileged to hear all of my life in this great nation. Thank you for that, Veterans; and thank you for the hope and promise of an America of tomorrow to the Big Blue Band.
Jerry L. Ogles, Presiding Bishop Anglican Orthodox Church
VFW Post 6683 Chaplain