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Two perceptions of Memorial Day

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

Malcolm Goodman and Dane Stearns stood about two feet apart Monday while handing out programs for the Memorial Day Service at Soldiers Memorial Field, but they were separated by age and uniform.

Goodman, 83, sat on a bench in his American Legion uniform, leaning on a walker. He pointed to a paving stone with his name on it. It states that he’s a World War II veteran.

Dane, 8, wore the uniform of Den 3 of Cub Scout Pack 28 of Rochester.

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The biggest gap, however, was in their perception of the day.

Goodman said he served in the Army in the Pacific. "I was in the Philippines when they dropped the bomb," he said. "We had a nice party."

He’s proud of his service, proud of being in the Legion, proud of the annual service that he has attended dozens of times. He’s been to about 400 military funerals as a member of the Legion and volunteers to sit on the hard bench to hand out programs.

"We are proud to do it, proud of the veterans," he said. For him, the day is to honor all those veterans of all wars.

Dane was at his second such program wearing a Cub Scout uniform. He said he was there to hand out programs, but couldn’t really say what the meaning of the day is. "I don’t know," he said.

The son of Ali and Robin Stearns thought about it and said "flags and wars."

The two soon walked to the memorial to join a large crowd that filled the inside of the circular memorial and spilled out to the outside.

As flags were carried in, Goodman stood near a wall, leaned one hand on his walker and gave a military salute. Dane sat on his dad’s shoulders and gave the Cub Scout salute.

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They stood or sat during the traditional program with a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, General Logan Orders No. 4, the singing of "America the Beautiful," and a short speech.

Finally, two buglers played Taps, and the color guards began to retire the colors.

Goodman again stood and proudly saluted. He was happy he had come again.

"They always do a good job; there’s no question about it," he said.

Dane thought the program was "good because they shot guns and stuff." He’s not sure what he learned about Memorial Day but would like to return next year. He said he likes helping people by handing out programs.

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