A time for flags, memories 'These men and women fought for freedom' Holiday marked by celebration and solemnity

June 01, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Twenty-five American flags billowed from front porches in the 200 block of Arden Road in Brooklyn Park yesterday, a long, sparkling row of Stars and Stripes reminding anyone who might have forgotten that it was Memorial Day.

James Sinclair, 73, sat behind one of the flags, passing a cloudy holiday afternoon with his friend and fellow World War II veteran Ray Redgrave, 70.

There was no cookout to launch the advent of summer.

No rush to take advantage of holiday sales.

No trip to the beach.

Just idle talk between good Americans who have known one each other for 40 years.

"We're glad to be living day to day," said Mr. Sinclair. "What else can you do but take it easy?"

Getting up in age and dogged by heart trouble, Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Redgrave had been chatting about the high cost of medicine. But it only took a mention of the flag to get the veterans talking about the reason the United States took yesterday off.

"We were fighting for freedom -- we wanted to stay free," said Mr. Sinclair, who served in the Army Air Forces. "The last island I was on before they brought us home was Iwo Jima."

"Hell, younger people today don't know what it was like back then," said Mr. Redgrave, a Navy man with a 1940s Pearl Harbor tattoo of a Hawaiian girl on his arm. "The houses on this block with the flags are the houses where the old people live."

Alice Leake knows what it was like back then.

A short mile away, just over the line in Baltimore from the patriotic splendor of Arden Avenue, she sat on a front porch glider of her Brooklyn home, quietly reading a magazine.

On her mind were "thoughts of everybody who has ever been in a war" and childhood memories of going with her father to cemeteries where war dead were buried to keep the graves presentable.

"Memorial Day should be important to everybody," said Ms. Leake, 60, a former Machinists union leader. "It's a day for the men and women who served our country. We used to call it Decoration Day, a day to go to the graveyard to decorate the graves of the deceased and weed and keep the grass trimmed. That's what you were supposed to do.

"Kids today just go to the beach," said Ms. Leake. "They take it for granted."

While the skies above neighborhoods from Brooklyn to Bowleys Quarters were perfumed with the smell of meat grilling over open flames for casual get-togethers of family and friends, traditional Memorial Day was also observed.

Taps was played at the Korean War memorial on the Boston Street waterfront in Canton.

Others paid respect to Marylanders killed in Vietnam by visiting the memorial to the dead of that war just off Hanover Street, a few blocks away from the Cherry Hill rowhouse of Franklin and Phyllis White.

"Freedom is something that has to be protected and fought for," said Mrs. White, who took a quiet stroll around the memorial with her husband in the morning.

"I honor those people who died for it."

Down the block on Roundview Avenue, Russell Williams saw the day as an opportunity to remember all who have died violently.

"There's so many young people getting killed right now in this generation, this day should mean something to them too," said Mr. Williams. "It's a war of its own."

About 150 people gathered for a ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, where 70-year-old W. E. Blackburn visited the grave of his father, a World War I sailor named Enoch Blackburn.

Nearby, mourners grieved for the more recent death of Navy Lt. Patrick J. Ardaiz of Towson, whose plane never returned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Adriatic Sea after monitoring relief airdrops over Bosnia.

"Freedom, justice and human dignity often come at a terrible high price," said Maj. Gen. James F. Fretterd, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard.

Too high, said Jesse Will Jones of Cherry Hill.

"Wars come and wars go, but war ain't nothin' but a sin -- a sin and a tragedy," said Mr. Jones, 64, who said he was never healthy enough to be drafted. "There ain't much purpose to war. I guess they'll end when God comes back to this Earth."

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