Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Remembering Young Lives Cut Short on a Hot Alabama Day
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Yesterday, after getting apples for a PTSA teacher breakfast at Scott’s school, I stopped off by Oakwood Cemetery with camera in tow as is my habit these days. I drove up to take a look at Hank Williams’ grave since I’d never seen it. We Southerners seem to have a thing about cemeteries and Decoration Day (Memorial Day) as my grandma always called it used to be the occasion for a trip to the cemetery to clean up the final resting places of our dearly departed relatives.
Hank’s grave is fine and I’m sure it’s a fitting memorial to him and his singing talent.
But what I found more interesting were the graves right before you got to his in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex. Here you’ll find 78 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, all airmen who died while training in Alabama under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission sees to it that their graves are immaculately maintained. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Lovely summer flowers flourish despite the 100 degree scorching Alabama sun. Lantana, and periwinkles surround the headstones. Twenty French warriors rest nearby, and two non-war graves are also in this area.
Our town has a long aviation history going back to the flight school set up here on an old cotton plantation by the Wright Brothers in 1910 which later became Maxwell Air Force Base.
If you look about on the Internet, you can find out a little more about these Royal Air Force flyboys so far from home. Gone but not forgotten. A form letter from the group captain to Mrs. Marhoff, a widow with two children, reassures her that “the good people of Montgomery take special care of them (the graves) and are constant visitors to the cemetery.”
From a newspaper clipping, you learn that Frank Victor Marhoff, who died at 29, had been a clerk in civilian life. His plane and a plane of a former bookkeeper crashed into each other, and the planes burst into flames. The men had eight weeks of training left.
In a little less than three months, Scott will turn 18. He’s excited to just squeeze in under the voter registration deadline, and he can vote for the first time. I’m concerned that he must to go down to the post office and register with the Selective Service.
I think about the men and women serving our country now so far from home and hope against hope that we will see fewer young lives cut short as was Frank Victor Marhoff’s so long ago.