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Good and bad

I am in a real quandary tonight as I sit staring at the computer screen.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of terrific activities and moments. There were wonderful comments about our community and our volunteers, compliments about Operation Celebration and the veterans we honored, a great announcement about the sale of the Baker buildings, and other positive moments. I love pulling all of that out of my keyboard and giving it as a gift of appreciation to all of you who contributed or participated in any way.

I try to capture the positive when we have a good community event. I am inclined to do that again after this past weekend’s great celebration.

But I also am fist-banging furious about something and so is a good portion of the community. While we all were honoring our veterans with a celebration about their service to keep us free, a group of delinquents, late Friday night or early Saturday morning, went to the Avenue of Flags at Prairie Lawn Cemetery and destroyed the flags of nine deceased veterans. The flags were ripped from the poles, apparently at random; some thrown to the ground, others shredded stripe by stripe, the red stripes still missing.

Once again, I am almost certain that this kind of destruction is the work of some of our young people. When I voice that opinion in this column certain adult members of the community are outraged at the accusation and get the community youth whipped into a frenzy of denial. However, this time I am inclined again to accuse the youth because I just cannot see any other generation pulling a sleazy stunt like that. And while I hate to give them the notoriety they seek with this behavior, ignoring it just doesn’t seem to be an option for me.

So what to do? Comment on the positive or the negative? Let’s see if I can do both.

There were positive contributions this past weekend from some noteworthy Peabody youngsters. Lauren Pickens knocked ‘em dead once again by sweeping the gold in the 100, 200, and a record-breaking 400 meter dash at the state track meet. HUB kids spent some time cleaning the sidewalks downtown before the Operation Celebration event. The high school and junior high bands were front and center in the Victory Parade even though school had been out for a couple of weeks. Other youngsters helped with setup and cleanup, information booths, and serving food. Bailey Penner volunteered for a part in the WWII re-enactors’ Siege on Peabody … good for him! Good kids and good participation and we are proud of all of them.

On the other side of the coin, who raises children to desecrate the American flag in the manner that the flags at the cemetery were desecrated? Most of the flags were burial flags. That means the flag was placed on the casket of the dead soldier (yes, the guy who made sure you do not live in a country ruled by Nazis, North Korea, or Russia) and then presented to the soldier’s family at the end of the funeral service. There is only one burial flag per soldier; only one. Peabody American Legion members believe six of the nine flags destroyed were burial flags which CANNOT be replaced. Each soldier can, of course, receive a second flag on the Avenue of Flags, but it will never have the significance the original burial flag had … that was the one that said, “We are grateful to you and owe you all.”

And yes, you do owe them all. Because had they not won their wars, you would not be able to protest your cause in any manner. Not with signs or letters to the editor, not with boycotts or strikes, not even with bad behavior. In any of the above societies, your protest would have gotten you imprisoned and/or killed.

So, good kids were out in force during the weekend. Unfortunately so were the losers.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified June 3, 2010

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