Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks for Appropriate Gratitude

I have been thinking recently of appropriate and meaningful tributes, and how candles on a sidewalk or a flashy mySpace page are not appropriate and serve only to announce: "Forget the dead guy. Look at how much I am grieving, world!!"
The eulogies I have delivered here recently for my pets and companions -- my shipmates -- do not exempt me from such indictments of self-indulgence : I too hope that someone many years away might ... say something nice.
But NOT build a cairn of stuffed animals and plastic flowers.
A stone's throw from my aunt's home in the South End of Fall River, there's a veteran's memorial to Army Corporal David L. Miller. Every so often, while doing laundry at the laundromat across the street, I'd walk over and see it.
Veteran's memorials are everywhere. There's one just a half-mile from stately Goon Manor, way out here in the country.
But the fact that they are ubiquitous does not diminish their significance. In fact, it reminds us of and legitimizes our gratitude as a people. On a piece of land, we saw fit to thank a member of our armed forces whose final sacrifice ensured that we could.
Shamrock at Fall River-tastic has assembled a brilliant post and leads a lively discussion about that very memorial, and how elected representatives took that memorial, relocated it, and placed another there, dedicated to Paul McGovern, who owned McGovern's Restaurant up the street.
I commented to Shamrock this way:

I "grew up" in Tiverton and I think that I remember being at McGovern's restaurant twice.However: Every moment of my life --whether I'm on American soil or not -- I enjoy the freedoms and comforts and rights and privileges that Corporal Miller devoted his life to protecting and ensuring. Thank you for pointing all of this out, Shamrock.

And I mean that.
And I also mean this: I often read that Paul McGovern sponsored the appearance of Tall Ships during Fall River Celebrates America. If he was a sponsor from 1989 to 1996, I am thankful to Mr. McGovern because I participated during those Parades of Tall Ships, as a broadcast commentator or (more significantly and more often), as TallShip™ crew.
If the Bounty benefited directly from his largess (I don't know, maybe he donated food), I would probably have been the first crew member to suggest putting a small and tasteful plaque in the galley thanking him.
I would not have put a four-foot high granite monument midships, to replace the ship's roster commemorating the original Eighteenth Century crew.
But I do wish that I had the opportunity for a harbor sail, a hearty handshake, and sincere "Thank you."
And while out there, we could both thank Corporal Miller.


shamrock said...

Great post and thank you for your moving comment on my blog.

A memorial is being planned for Corporal Miller (more info to follow). I hope you can make it.

ThirdMate said...

Thanks for keeping me informed.

History has provided me with both a livelihood and much entertainment, but as much as I may skew historical perpective here in the Journal, I respect truth and admire those who seek it. Your research demonstrates how history connects David Miller, the Bataan March, Fall River, McGovern's, and us.

Howard Zinn said that "...history is a protective armor against being misled.” Thanks for filling some of the holes in that armor.