Tourism people in Cape May County will tell you the flag lowering ceremony at Sunset Beach in Lower Township is a must-do event. Every night from May through the end of September, casket flags of United States Veterans are flown, then lowered at sunset. It’s been going on for 40 years.
Receiving an invitation to witness the solemn ceremony by a friend, a high school classmate, makes the event that much more meaningful. Tom Healy flew his father’s flag at Sunset Beach on Wednesday this week. At Sunset many of his family members made the trek to assist lowering and folding the Veteran’s flag.
Tom and I were Boy Scouts together in the seventies. One of our Scoutmasters also made the trip to participate.
Making the night unexpectedly special was live concert by a brass band. After the traditional Kate Smith recording of God Bless America, a trumpeter blew Taps. The announcer read the brief biography provided by the Healy family:
“William E. Healy was born September 4, 1929. He served this Great Nation in the US Navy during the Korean War from 1951-1955. He continued his service to this country as a Philadelphia Fire Fighter from 1958 through 1976. Bill volunteered with the Boy Scouts, St. Vincent DePaul, Knights of Columbus, and was an usher at both St. Clements Parish in Philadelphia and St. John of God in North Cape May.
He and his bride Patricia married in 1952. They were blessed with 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Bill and Pat loved their years here in Cape May. They faithfully attended the flag ceremony at Sunset Beach. It was Pat’s greatest desire that someday her Bill’s flag would fly over Sunset Beach to remember his life of service and commitment to God and his country.”
Pat got her wish.
Something made this night especially meaningful. Was it that Tom’s dad was born a couple of months before my own father? Was it that Tom’s parents were married the same year as my folks? I confess there were a few tears.
Maybe it was talking to the old Scoutmaster about Mackerel fishing on the Porgy III, in Cape May back in the early 70’s.
My mother use to refer to obituaries as the Irish funnies. Googling that expression confirms it was a thing. An old op-ed in the New York times says people live on in the obituaries.
I think loved ones live on in the nightly flag lowering ceremony at Sunset Beach.