A Memorial Day message from Marty
May 26, 2010
In rummaging through my 'stuff,' I ran across another Martyism of Marty Heim's "Inside" columns in this newspaper. I felt it apropos as Memorial Day approaches. I knew Marty since the day he was born (his parents, Tony and Margaret, and my brother Floyd Park and sister-in-law Bess were best friends), and I elect myself President of the Marty Heim Fan Club. Here's the column:
"Monday is Memorial Day...A time to remember, a time to give thanks and a time to re-examine our course. Memorial Day is a special day to this writer. It rekindles memories and it's a day I feel different inside. It's difficult to explain that feeling, a feeling tinged with reverence, a sad feeling, but a proud feeling.
"Memorial Day is visiting the cemetery, watching the veteran's parade go by, a solemn ceremony, maybe a picnic later in the day. It's the smell of lilacs, a breeze whipping Old Glory, a local clergyman speaking softly, the bark of the rifles and eventually a distant trumpet.
"I grew up in Almont during World War II. Memorial Day brings back a lot of memories of those days. I vividly recall that war, supported by all. There were no demonstrators, no anti-war speeches, only unity...A unity that would eventually bring the enemy to their knees.
"It was a time of gas rationing, food rationing, stars in windows, war bond drives, victory gardens. World War II, the 'big' war, pitted the 'good guy,' Americans against the 'bad guy' Germans and Japs. This country was called on once again by European allies to stem the tide of Nazism and Imperialism. While this war was a romanticist's war it had its tragedies. They came in millions of lives lost by all sides.
"I remember someone once saying that Almont, a small town in the Thumb of Michigan, lost more men per capita than any other town in the Midwest. When the Japanese surrendered to Gen. MacArthur in Tokyo Bay in August of 1945, the number of names on the Almont Honor Roll had risen to 18. At that time the town's population was only around 900.
"Almont, as the rest of the United States, felt the war mostly in these personal sacrifices. No bombs dropped here, no parachutists, no machine gun fire. The closest we came to realizing what war was like was a Japanese weather balloon that landed at the north end of town, across from what is now Charlie Brown's. Or the B-24 Liberator bomber, on a training mission, which crashed in a woods just northeast of Almont. The local fire department answered that call one Saturday morning and the town was ajar for weeks following those two incidents."
...I remember the crashing of the B-24 as though it was yesterday. I was standing at the window above our sink when I saw the plane start to dive. At first I thought it was in training but it kept diving with such a thunderous roar. I yelled, "Pull it up! Pull it up! Pull it up!...but no, it crashed...and then all the black smoke...and then the fire whistle."
There was much more to Marty's Memorial Day column, but I will end with his last two paragraphs:
"There'll be a number of Memorial Day observances this Monday. You can read where and when in this newspaper. Don't get up to go to church anymore? Easier to stay in bed? Got to get the beer cooled?
"Somewhere a lot of brave souls with familiar names will be mighty proud of us who made it back if we show up on that one particular day to bow our heads, stand erect when Old Glory passes, maybe even shed a tear but above all, Remember...without their supreme sacrifices we wouldn't have the choice to even make these decisions.
"See you Monday!"
...And I hope to see you Monday also...and I will stand proud with my family when they read my brother Roy Park's name in company with his children Pam and Tim from Columbus, Ohio.
Gertie Brooks is a lifelong Almont area resident. A 'farm girl,' Gertie is the premier historian for the Almont area, and frequently offers her memories and first-hand accounts in her 'Country Cousin' columns.