Thinking About Shoulders

by Fred Cederholm
Most of our history we have been at war. This is a sad but true fact. Each generation looks to the sacrifices of those who have gone before. They literally rise on the pyramid of services from those who have gone before - standing on their shoulders if you will.

I’ve been thinking about shoulders. Actually I’ve been thinking about Memorial Day 2010, Woodlawn Cemetery, Bob Chadwick, the ring of conflicts, our veterans, our present service men and women, and still being alive. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. It was begun to honor the soldiers who died in the American Civil War, and after World War I - “the war to end all wars.” It was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action as well as honoring living veterans. In is widest context, it provides opportunity to honor anyone who is no longer with us.

Our little Village of Creston - like many thousands of small communities across this nation make special observances on Memorial Day. Local businessman, Lyle Headon, a US Marine and Vietnam Veteran coordinates the ceremonies and program. Woodlawn Cemetery (aka the “eternal” Creston) is a beautifully pastoral setting about a mile North of town. A stream meanders 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 hence becoming Creston (nee Crest-town).

It is a Creston tradition to gather at the cemetery to participate in a program and to pay respects to those who have served this nation in the military in both times of war and in times of peace. This year’s keynote speaker was Bob Chadwick --- a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, a Vietnam Veteran, and a local attorney from nearby Rochelle. His message focused on “standing on the shoulders of others.” He related how we are still the envy of the world for the freedoms we enjoy. These freedoms have come at a heavy price paid for by the service men and women and general citizenry who gave so much during times of conflict. Most of our history we have been at war. This is a sad but true fact. Each generation looks to the sacrifices of those who have gone before. They literally rise on the pyramid of services from those who have gone before - standing on their shoulders if you will.

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, the America Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, Word War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Each veteran’s grave displays the appropriate bronze flag holder (for the war of their service) and a small American flag. There is also a circle of the seven bronze markers (from the various conflicts) around the main flagpole. A small flag is added to each when the respective names are read. There were also patriotic songs, patriotic readings, and taps. This year we had approximately 200 people there for the program. A fellowship pot luck meal was available back in town at the restored Creston Opera House after cemetery program.

In the conversations which followed at the cemetery and around several of the tables during the communal meal, a primary focus remained about our ongoing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and the young men and women serving there. It is an interesting factoid, that Sunday morning, our spending on these two conflicts surpassed one TRILLION dollars! We didn’t much dwell on that. Literally everyone in this little Northern Illinois community of just under 600 has at least one family member, friend, and/ or loved one (or more) presently serving abroad. My home church of St. Johns remembers the names of each such individual every Sunday in our prayer list(s). The same occurs at other congregations in the area communities as well. For us in this small rural community 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.” We miss our service men and women and wish them a safe and speedy return home. (These two conflicts are now the longest in our nation’s history and we know that there is no end in sight.) Please remember these young people (and their families) in your Memorial Day thoughts and prayers.

It was also noted that so many souls from our community have departed from us in the past year. This listing really boggles the mind. These, too, were remembered in our thoughts and conversations on this day of observances. After the community meal, I visited nine different local cemeteries to pay my respects to friends and family member who are no longer with us. I was not alone in this tradition. The caravan of the living circulating to pay respects to the dead is also a part of this commemoration holiday. I didn’t participate in last year’s observances at all as I was in the hospital beginning my three month ordeal. I shouldn’t still be alive today, but I am so glad that I am. May God continue to bless us one and all. Peace...

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

Copyright 2009 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 June 1, 2010.