To The Reader's Forum:
My home is now in Florida and this is a special place and home, but my first home and the one that shaped my beliefs and ideas was Falconer and Jamestown and the villages of Lakewood, Westfield and the whole beautiful area of Chautauqua County.
What has prompted this letter ... your Memorial Day parade. My husband, son and I were visiting my sister and her family over the Memorial Day Weekend. We went to the Jamestown Memorial Day parade.
The day before the parade we had visited families' gravesites in the Falconer, Lakewood and Sunset Hill cemeteries. We honored those we love who had helped us grow and cared for us. We remembered.
The morning of the parade I couldn't believe how excited I was to be going for the parade. We chose a spot on Fourth Street in front of a lawyer's office. We watched the units go by, heard the drums, felt the excitement of the crowd. I started looking at the crowd, the children and their parents. Not more than five feet away from me was a man dressed in uniform. He became the focus of my attention.
He was standing alone. No one seemed to notice him. He was a middle-aged, white-haired man. His hair was neatly cut. His uniform appeared to have been neatly stored away and freshly pressed. His shoes were brightly shined. He stood straight. Every time the flag passed by he saluted. I pointed him out to my sister and she quietly took a picture of him saluting our flag.
I can't describe his facial expression. I felt he had experienced and seen things I had not experienced. He sincerely understood and honored our flag. I then noticed a Prisoner of War badge on his uniform.
I spoke to him briefly after the parade. He was in the Vietnam War. I thanked him for his contribution. I didn't feel I should ask his name or any questions although I wanted to say something more. After I talked with him a few others, young and old, came up and started talking with him. We left but this man and the whole weekend have remained on my mind.
I am sure he has a story. I know it is not possible or maybe even that anything should be done, but I wish he could be honored. I wish, if he chose, he could ride in a car and be honored and be saluted. Too many have sacrificed for us and gone without honor; our parents, our friends, our servicemen and so many others.
Chautauqua County is a very special place on earth with very special people.