(A brief account of Memorial Day in Luna city, from the Second Chronicle of Luna City, which we brought out at the beginning of May, in response to a chorus of pleading from readers who want to know how the cliffhanger at the end of the first Chronicle was resolved.)
Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid Army career in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. He is the exception; Lunaites mostly have served a single hitch or two, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.
The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – to include Joe Vaughn, Sylvester Gonzales, and Chris Mayall – serving in various capacities in more recent operations in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.
There is not much need in Luna City for elaborate observances of Memorial Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day, but in the main, the most notable civic event marking Memorial Day is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks.
The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although spring rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families and guests nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip-Top. Joe Vaughn, who had been the star quarterback for the Mighty Fighting Luna Months in his senior year, sits out the game with considerable regret. Three hitches of particularly strenuous Army service have blown out his knees; jumping out of perfectly usable aircraft or fast-roping down from helicopters in full battle-rattle will have that effect on mortal joints and bones.
The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Memorial Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Memorial Day in Luna City.