By: John Small

  Seated in the shade of old oak trees, several men had gathered for no apparent reason. Two of the men knew each other and were talking. A third lone man sitting by himself explained that he was from Summit, a veteran soldier during the Vietnam War and had heard about this through the local paper.  He was thin and wore a baseball cap with veteran’s patches all over it.  In the soft grass next to him was a camera.  It was a bright warm windy day.  All was serene and it was the last day for the original site of the Justice Veteran’s Memorial.

  Walking up to them I set up the new HD Camera my wife had given me as a gift.  I didn’t know what to expect of the scene but I dearly wanted to have a lasting record of this date.  As time waited, little did I know I was about to record a gem of history and gain an impression to cherish forever.

  A workman was busy cutting away at grout, which held in place the base of a granite monument that had been set nearly forty years ago. With a power saw he was breaking the bonds that tied this heavy relic to the land it sat on along with the dreams and pride that had set it there so long ago.  He wore goggles and a mask for protection as the dust blew around him and the stone monument he had been sent to relocate.  The sound of his tool sliced into the silence of this moment.  As we watched it seemed to me he tried to sense what we were all thinking when he said almost apologetically, “I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I was just hired to do this job.”  We all nodded and agreed, yes the move was not his decision he was just doing his job.  As he continued to cut and chip away at the grout one of the men talking, got up and walked away.

  As we all watched, a gentleman from the Justice Senior Club entered the scene.  He too was a veteran from the same conflict as the man with the baseball cap and just like his fellow serviceman he also brought a camera.  The Senior Club was finished with their meeting and they were headed our way, he informed.  Then as I was turning my camera around, I heard chatter as a half dozen gray haired men and women walked and strolled their way toward the memorial monument and us.

  They didn’t move very fast but I noticed a spring in the steps they made.  Getting closer now I began to hear the voices clearer.  The monument was their focus and they were not happy with the proceedings.  A woman who I heard someone say was 82 years old, in an attempt to keep the memorial were it was had gathered 45 names on a petition in a single day.  They were aged but for now they were young again.  Slowly they gathered around the monument.  Standing on its steps and out in front along the sides of it, they were posing for pictures.  After one round of photos, more seniors had walked up and they too took turns posing for the cameras and the filming and just being there.

  Then it hit me, some of these people were my age or younger when this stone was placed here and soon it will be somewhere else, gone.  This was just as much their place in time and their legacy as it was a tribute to the heroes of our nation.  No doubt World War II and that era made an impact on the generation standing in front of this memorial.  They were giddy, they were excited and they were for a moment in time, with this the object of their passion.

  I am not in my 80’s or 90’s.  I do not know what I will think or how I will feel should I get there.  But for today I feel fortunate to have been in Justice on a beautiful spring afternoon, when the elders of our community marched up for one last time to share stories and take pictures at a spot they will always be connected to.  Some day maybe, just maybe I too will have attained the age to know life better and like them be so old as to be so young.

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