The Memorial Day celebration put on by the McLean American Legion Post 270 at McLean High School was watched appreciatively by World War II veterans whose spirits were already buoyed by the dedication of a memorial to veterans of that war over the weekend in Washington, D.C. Veterans of several wars, as well as political figures and residents, turned out to stand in the rain for the annual ceremony.
“Essentially, this is probably the most compassionate remembrance for the men and women who have given their lives. It’s as important as Veterans Day. Since 9/11, now that we have the international terrorist situation, there are people who not only wear the uniform of the military that we are honoring but those that wear the uniform of the federal government as well,” said Jack McMahon, the Post's vice commander.
“Normally we’d see a lot more people out here for this, but not this year after the dedication [of the W.W II memorial]. But that’s OK. God gave us the best possible day for the dedication. This year we have so many, and yet so few, survivors of that war. It was unfortunate it took so long to get [the memorial]. The Vietnam memorial was healing for those of us that came back during that time. The World War II memorial, well, there aren’t enough around for it to be healing,” said McMahon, a retired Air Force pilot.
POST COMMANDER Mary Kingman, a W.W.II Navy nurse, said, “I’m just so grateful that I lived this long to see the dedication of the WW II memorial. Only 25 percent of us are left.” The dedication of that memorial was attended by 13 members of the McLean post.
Kingman said, “I’m pro-military. My days in the military were the happiest of my life. I would have stayed in for the entire 25 years if they’d let me, but back then when you had a child, you had to get out.”
Military hospitals in those days, according to Kingman, differed dramatically from the military hospitals today. “In those days we had 80-bed wards. It was a real happy atmosphere with 80 people all bucking each other up. Now, you’ve got these kids, 18 years old with no arms, sitting in the hospital,” said Kingman. “It’s a sad thing.”
Remembering the current crop of military personnel serving overseas and domestically was urged by several ceremony attendees. Dranesville District School Board member Janie Stauss said, “It is important we honor all the young people who serve on our behalf. It is we elders who send the young to war, and we must honor them. It is a difficult time for them.”
STATE DEL. VINCE CALLAHAN (R-34th), a Korean War veteran and member of the Post for 40 years, turned out for the ceremony to detail the significance of the red poppies that are distributed and associated with Memorial Day. The red poppies, said Callahan, are made by veterans in the hospitals and are called “Buddy Poppies.”
“People should reflect today on the contributions of people serving in the military,” Callahan said.
Next year the Memorial Day celebration will move to the new school entrance of the high school, where the Vietnam War dedication plaque will have a more prominent place. “Next year will be a better spot. We wanted a better spot. Being here by the rock and the wreck [the wrecked car symbolizing the perils of teen drinking] isn’t where we want to be,” said Kingman.