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Thinking about Observances

by Fred Cederholm

Before we will see any closure or contraction on the current two military fronts, we will probably see expansion of campaign theatres into Pakistan and India. This is a mandatory legacy of a non-WAR conflict when the enemy is so ill-defined and so ill-conceived.

I’ve been thinking about observances. Actually I’ve been thinking about Memorial Day 2009, Woodlawn Cemetery, past conflicts and enemies, current conflicts and enemies, serving those who have served US/ us, and the coming challenges. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. It began to honor the soldiers who died in the American Civil War, and World War I - “the war to end all wars.” It was since expanded to include those who died in any war or military action as well as to honor living veterans. In some communities first responders – fire and police – are acknowledged as well.

You see my hometown like many thousands of small communities across this land makes special observances on Memorial Day. Local businessman, Lyle Headon, a US Marine and Vietnam War Veteran coordinates the ceremonies and program which this year were scheduled to occur at both Creston’s Woodlawn Cemetery and St John’s Lutheran Church. Woodlawn is a beautifully pastoral setting about a mile North of Creston. There is a meandering stream on two sides. Just to the North is Brody’s Grove where the original settlement was located before the railroad came thru and the village of “Dement” relocated to a “crest of a hill” along the iron horse tracks becoming Creston (nee Crest-town).

It has been a Creston tradition to gather at the cemetery to pay respects to those who have served America in the military in both times of war and in times of peace. Every year there is a roll call of names of all the departed veterans interred there. Woodlawn is the final resting place for veterans from the War of 1812 (1), the America Civil War (32), the Spanish American War (3), World War I (35), Word War II (48), Korea (3), and Vietnam (3). Each veteran’s grave displays the appropriate bronze flag holder (acknowledging their tour of service) and an American flag. Weather permitting...we enjoy patriotic songs and readings, a special speaker, taps, and a bagpipe solo. A community/ cooperative meal follows. This year most of the program, and the common meal occurred in town at St. Johns Lutheran Church. Afterwards... car caravans take us to neighboring community cemeteries to pay further respects.

Those who have served in the armed forces during past conflicts had certain tangible advantages which the present generation of young service men and women do not. First, there was “a war” declared by an Act of Congress with a defined and identified enemy. It is easier to personify your adversary when that enemy has a finite national border. The same does not hold true when the enemy opposed is a religious philosophy, an –ISM, or an ethnic sub-class. It seems impossible to believe that World War II as the last “war” declared as such by the US Congress and signed into being by the sitting president. Every conflict drawing our young men and women into harms way since has been a word game of sorts.

Presently there are just over twenty area locals serving their country at US military installations in Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and the Pacific Rim. For us in this small rural community in America’s Heartland, each name equates to a face with a family – all of whom we know and love. We are the “Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.” Please remember these young people (and their families) in your Memorial Day thoughts and prayers.

The lengthy Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts have been exceedingly costly in terms of both deaths and (much more-so in terms of disfigurement and amputee) serious injuries. Service men and women are surviving now what would have been considered fatal injuries in earlier conflicts. The following reflects these numbers thru this May 15 of 2009: US troops killed in Afghanistan - 682. US troops seriously injured in Afghanistan – 2,046. US troops killed in Iraq – 4,295. US troops seriously injured in Iraq – 31,156. Please take a moment to reflect on the implications of these numbers.

Before we will see any closure or contraction on these two military fronts, we will probably see expansion of campaign theatres into Pakistan and India. This is a mandatory legacy of a non-WAR conflict when the enemy is so ill-defined and so ill-conceived. Much like the Vietnam experience, there will be no clearly defined victor, or vanquished. These conflicts could even drag on indefinitely much like that of the Korean experience. This is a fact of life in 21st Century “warfare” without definition. This is not any fault of our troops. Our service men and women are entitled to our unconditional and enduring love and respect. Their wounds go deep and will require extensive therapy and counseling. We owe them these.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on May 25, 2009.