May 27--WELLFLEET -- This was not the rattling bones of tree limbs knocking against one another in the winter wind. This was the full-throated sough of generously leafed trees fluttering like the sails of a summer regatta or 1,000 green flags bravely marching into battle against gathering ranks of storm clouds that threatened rain.
But what began with jaunty military and patriotic tunes played by the Lower Cape Concert Band ended with a hurried rush to cover up instruments as the rain progressed from spotty to steady in front of Wellfleet Town Hall.
Around 100 people stood quiet and uncomplaining as the rain dripped down. They were dressed in everything from flip-flops and light T-shirts to layered rain gear, and they listened attentively as Donald Arthur, retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and former Navy surgeon general, told them the day was for the living and the dead, not a time for mourning as much as a day for remembrance. He noted that the flag was lowered to half-staff only until noon and then raised to the top of the flagpole for the remainder of the day to symbolize "the persistence of this nation and those who continue to serve throughout the day."
Many decided they wouldn't prolong the pleasures of a holiday weekend in the face of rain, and left early, slogging down the clogged roadways heading off-Cape. But in nearly every community across the peninsula, countermovements as steadfast as incoming tides drove, walked or marched their way toward a patch of green in each village or town center. There, bright red, white and blue flags snapped in the wind and flowers or a wreath decorated a largely ignored tablet, cannon or graveyard that would be bypassed with hardly a glance most other days of the year.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Henry Boriskin, 78, a Desert Storm veteran, sat in fatigues and cap in the front row. He appreciated that many came despite the weather, and thought it was the least they all could do to commemorate those who died in service to their country to guarantee freedom.
"Truro, born and raised," said World War II veteran Sebastian "Sibby" Davis, 89, the sergeant at arms of American Legion Post 287. Hustling back to his car to make the trip to another memorial service, Davis said he joined the Navy on March 2, 1942, and served for six years, including support for the Allied invasion of North Africa. He later served on a U.S. submarine.
Davis called the Wellfleet turnout "beautiful."
"I love what this day represents," said Patti Lloyd of Yarmouth Port. As the ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Hyannis was breaking up she lingered, watching participants file out of the stone plaza.
Lloyd's father was a career soldier. She was born in Germany, moving with him from one posting to the next. Memorial Day was always parades and pomp, she said. From the perspective of military families, it was a day to honor those who dedicated their lives to preserving our freedom.
"I love the red, white and blue," said Lloyd.
Standing beside Lloyd, Jessica Sylver nodded in agreement at what military families endure in support of those who serve. Her month-old baby boy stirred in the sling that held him snug to her chest. Sylver said her father spent 40 years in the Army, including service in Vietnam before she was born. She was a teenager when he was in Bosnia, clearing land mines.
"You worry about them being over there," she said. "I can relate to what families are feeling now."
Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.
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