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Guns and Religion in a Small Town on Memorial Day

An anti-war vet in Trumpland

Heyer is justly renowned for having rushed to the Cambridge encampment where Washington had taken command of the continentals in the battle for Boston in 1775. He may or may not have been part of the troop movement that crossed the Delaware to fall upon the Hessians in Trenton, but there appears no doubt that Heyer did suffer the deprivations of winter at Valley Forge. Out of this heroic saga, our teacher spins an even more pleasing tale that jumps the historical rails, promoting Conrad Heyer, along with other nameless Waldoboro men, to a place of honor in Washington’s personal guard. History has otherwise chosen to remain silent on this detail. But no military glory can be over-gilded. And you can bet the endorsement of history on such matters is irrelevant, and that the legend of Heyer at Washington’s side is widely credited here. This reminds me of my mother telling us our family had a baron in the old country. When I deliver my own lecture on Waldoboro at our local library, I will set the record straight, and may the letters to the editor in our county rag bristle with outraged rejoinders. I digress.

The mic was passed among a short parade of officers of the Legion and the VFW to tell us of their advocacy in the legislature on behalf of veteran entitlements, and health issues like Agent Orange and Gulf War syndrome, the bread and butter mission of these service organizations. We learned when the local posts were founded, and who they were named for, inevitably men – relatives, boyhood friends, classmates for some – who’d not come home with the rest. There was a bit of nostalgia in one origin story about a time when “we could still hold a turkey shoot [a marksmanship contest] in someone’s backyard. Imagine all the red tape we’d have to go through today?” the man bemoaned with an obligatory head shake. This is the ruefulness of the anachronistic that glues the likes of Trump and our Tea Party governor LePage to their bases.

One commander’s comments had been written by committee, the Historical Society maven happily confided. Teamwork was the essential ingredient behind the planning of this event, avowed the team leader. Script in hand, as the man haltingly read other people’s words, I was reminded of my years as an adjunct at several satellite campuses of the University of Maine System where I taught College Writing, called Freshman Comp in my day. I became well aware of the fact that, while my students could all read – but mostly didn’t – only a small minority were capable of writing beyond a string of simple declarative sentences that seldom added up to a coherent narrative. I was shocked as perhaps only someone reared on the blank slate of suburbia and even modestly sheltered could be.

story | by Dr. Radut