FLOWERS TO REMEMBER THEM ALL
Memorial Day Flower Drop 2014 at the Palm Springs WWII Air Museum
By Patricia Moloney Dugas
The enthusiastic crowd, mostly bedecked in patriotic clothes and colors, roamed through the Palm Springs Air Museum, waiting for the annual Memorial Day Flower Drop. They could be separated into two groups. The young people with children had come to visit the museum and wait to gather the flowers dropped by that funny old, noisy airplane. “WWII” was just something they read on the front of the building.
The second group was made up of old-timers (like myself) who experienced WWII first hand; watching newsreels in the movie theatre, (no television yet), listening to the AM radio for news of the war, sitting in the dark during blackouts and watched the search lights eerily scan the sky. War movies filled the theatres to assure us that we were the good guys, the invincible; “Guadalcanal Diary,” “Back to Bataan,” “Corregidor,” titles with power.
The weather was an extreme 106 degrees – with guests gathered inside the hangers, standing under the wings of the silent B-25 that would carry aloft the 3000 red and white carnations loaded into the bomb bay – each flower representing those who have been lost in our many wars. I lost my uncle in Guadalcanal. We met his body at the old train station with a priest to bless the metal box his remains were in. One of these flowers will be for him, I am sure.
My brother came back from Korea a very young but very broken young man. He did die a little there. He did not come back my same brother, but he did come back.
But then something happened. We learned the irreconcilable difference between WWII and the “skirmishes” that followed: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – areas of the world we have only helped set ablaze. During WWII, we were the good guys; heroic, dedicated, noble, beyond reproach. The enemy were the bad guys; a cold-blooded, inhuman evil that had to be eliminated. War was good then.
However, during the Korean ‘Conflict’, we learned the terrible truth. The ‘bad guys’ were really ‘good guys’ just like us, with families and children just like us, now battered and broken, who needed to go home just like us. No more patriotic newsreels. Live television showed us the realities of war – they bled just like us.
War turned out to be a loathsome futility.
The Honor Guard marched in solemn cadence. We stood in the sun and sang with our hand over our hearts as they played the National Anthem. To accompany the WWII B-25 Mitchell Bomber, they also flew a Douglas C-47 Skytrain military transport. To add drama to the flights, after the first pass of the two vintage planes, an Honor Guard performed a 21-gun salute. After the second pass, they played “Taps” that had to catch in your throat at the funereal solemnity it represented.
There was a sorrow for all – us and them – all good guys lost – driven by the appetites of military commanders that convinced us war is necessary. Killing is good.
After a very successful third pass that dispelled the solemnity, the bomb bay doors opened and the sky was filled with red and white carnations drifting down on the crowd. As the children scooped them up, they did not fully understand that each blossom represented those Americans lost in the service of their Country.
Are we destined to repeat this service perpetually, or will there come a time when no more new flowers need to be added – when war will become outdated like these planes that flew above us at the Air Museum on Memorial Day, 2014.
Patricia Moloney Dugas, Freelance Writer
Palm Springs, California