HELMET TIME – MEMORIAL DAY 2014

On Friday I kicked off Memorial Day Weekend with about 150 thousand other country music fans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by putting on my best cowgirl digs and heading to Bayou Country Superfest. I had hoped my favorite cowboy George Strait would pick me out of the crowd … He didn’t. Little did I realize there would be about fifty thousand other fans between George and me at Tiger Stadium. Oh well, the music was great, the weather was nice and I had a ball.

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I had so much fun in fact, that I took the rest of the weekend off. But as I did my usual chores around the house on Sunday I began to contemplate just what Memorial Day is really all about. Yes for many it is the official kickoff of summer with music, barbecues, going to the beach and other fun stuff with family and friends.

But it is really about something much more important than that. It’s about honoring our heroes – The men and women who have died while serving in the armed forces. A quick internet search revealed that it actually began right after the American Civil War as Decoration Day, when friends and family members would “decorate” the graves of their war dead with flags, flowers and other tributes.
Realizing the history and somewhat somber meaning of this holiday, I decided to end my weekend with a Memorial Day motorcycle ride — and a solo ride at that.
Riding with friends and in groups is a lot of fun; but there is nothing like a little solitary time on the highway to be alone in your thoughts… I call these solo rides “helmet time.”
Nothing like a little helmet time to sort out what Memorial Day is really all about.

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First part of my ride was a trip across the Mississippi River between New Roads and St. Francisville. The John James Audubon Bridge is named for the famed French naturalist and painter, but it connects the birth places of two great American military heroes, Generals John Lejeune and Robert Barrow, the 13th and 27th Commandants of the United States Marine Corps.

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The New Roads approach bears General Lejeune’s name and the St. Francisville approach bears General Barrows name.
As I rode across the bridge I could not help but wonder just what it was about this area that produced two such incredible men, not quite a generation apart. Military leaders like Generals Lejeune and Barrow don’t come along that often in history. How amazing that they grew up in adjacent parishes of Louisiana separated only by the mighty Mississippi.

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After crossing the river my first stop was at Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville. You will find the graves of many “heroes” in this old church cemetery; but there is one grave here that is very special.

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Lt. Commander John Hart of the United States Navy is laid to rest here. It is not so much what Hart did or how he died that makes his grave so special. It is how he came to be buried here in the first place that makes for one of the most fascinating tales of the America Civil War.

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Hart’s Union gunboat was part of what is called the Siege of Port Hudson. For days it had been shelling St. Francisville. Perhaps a stray shell or two even landed in this cemetery. But when Hart, who had been ill and suffering from a high fever, took his own life during the battle, union and confederate forces arranged a 24 hour truce so that he could be given a proper Masonic Burial. Officers, soldiers and Masons from both sides participated in the somber ceremony.

It is referred to as “The Day the War Stopped” and it is commemorated here in this cemetery every June. You can read more about it here:

http://www.stgeorgeslodge.org/hart.htm
http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/daythewarstopped.html

 

From St. Francisville I rode south a few miles to the Port Hudson battle field and national cemetery.
More than 4000 Union soldiers who died during the Port Hudson siege are buried here as are victims of nearly every American conflict since, including World Wars One, Two, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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I don’t have a personal connection to any of the heroes buried at Port Hudson … but after walking around for a few moments I found a grave with a common name on it and I spent some time with Leroy T. Robinson.

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For me it was a perfect way to observe Memorial Day – spending a few quiet moments at the grave of an American hero. Whether they died in battle or years later at home with their families doesn’t really matter because they all answered the call of their country and that to me makes them all heroes.
Thank you Leroy and the thousands of others like you for fighting for my freedom and helping to preserve and protect this great country and its people.

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T.W. Robinson

 

 

~ by larider on May 27, 2014.

One Response to “HELMET TIME – MEMORIAL DAY 2014”

  1. Very informative and extremely well written.The Dunedin crew were quite impressed. Be careful on the big red machine. We love you.

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