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Parade held deep meaning for WWII generation

EDITORS NOTE:  The Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade parade has taken place for 151 years, even as the United States was engaged in military conflicts abroad, from the Spanish-American War, to World War I to Vietnam and wars in the Middle East.

The parade was of significant meaning to the generation who came of age in World War II, whose veterans will be honored next week, with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

One woman in that generation was Rosetta Cales, who penned this piece, published in The Tribune on May 1, 1983 in advance of that year’s parade:

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Each year, as our Memorial Day parade approaches, we venture into the past, which is filled with many memories — classmates leaving for World War II, friends and relatives.

We remember the hurt, the loneliness and the empty places it caused as we prodded on, learning that our America was out to win the war against the deceit of Japan and the holocaust of Germany. Ironton High School lost 45 of its students in this war that started in 1941.

Because of those who lay in Flanders Field we marched, we grieved and we paid honor to the genuine patriotism that will always belong to those who made the divine sacrifice to keep us a safe nation.

It was also in 1941 that John Smiley, of Ironton High School, started the “all girl marching band.” It has 45 members and was the only one of its kind in the history of Ironton and our alma mater.

It was a special kind of band that reminded you of the “presidents own” boys band, which wore long black capes, corded in orange, and tall, military-type hats with straps under the chin.

It marched for three years and, in 1943, merged with the boys band for the parade that year. It had to color its own knee socks orange and had to do without new dress, for it was impossible to get many things during the war.

In the space of these three years, John Smiley left for the service, being replaced by Walter Nance. Mr Nance left for the service, being replaced by Mr. Malyke. Mr. Grant replaced Mr. Malyke, then Mr. Filkins replaced Mr. Grant.

John Smiley returned in 1946.

So , as the band played on, and our school and city moved on with scrap drives, volunteer work and etc., we continually got reports of the wounded, those killed and continually what country our boys were fighting in.

We remember that parade on our downtown streets celebrating when it was finally over and our city had made such a beloved sacrifice. Yet we also remember those standing there weeping for the loved ones who did not make it home.

For all these reasons, we never became passive about our yearly parade.

Flanders Field will always be a loving memory to us, not a dead one.

And, as I venture with heartfelt memory into the past, I can still hear the drumbeat of the “all girls marching band” and wish that its 45 members were still there to fulfill the memory that will always be worth keeping — that we marched through the war, that we did our best and that we placed our devotions in Flanders Field for our city and our America forever.

Rosetta Cales

Star Route