Ever since I can remember, my dad stored a military sabre at the back of his closet, a relic from a bygone era. Dad attended Marist College High School in Atlanta, Georgia, in what was then an all-boys military academy. He graduated in 1958, the Adjutant of the Battalion at his school.
I doubt Dad ever imagined that his sabre would see the light of day again. He kept it for sentimental reasons. And because it’s hard to donate a weapon to Goodwill.
Last Friday (October 16, 2020), my dad Michael presented my son Michael with this very special high school memento. Dad had been living at my sister’s home for several weeks, helping Mom prepare meals for our family and keeping up with the yard work. He packed the coolers to send with Karen and JC over to our house. Dad also helped with my sister’s legal practice while she cared for our kids while I welcomed Becky into the world. It’s been a giant game of family chess.
Through a stroke of luck, the Sabre Ceremony took place about 6 hours before Dad’s plane left for Texas. Covid-19 delayed this ceremony which is normally held in September. It was truncated and the number of attendees limited. The Battalion did not form, filling the school gym with Cadets and the stands with family and friends. While that was a disappointment, we were grateful for Michael to receive this symbol of leadership from his beloved Gramps.
Dad mailed us the sabre months ago, telling us that it needed some TLC. Michael opened the package late one night after his shift at Panda Express. We had a good laugh as Dad tends to use just a little bit of tape.
Michael contacted companies all over the country, looking for a place to refurbish the rusted metal. He eventually found a company in St. Louis. He shipped the sabre there and the company refurbished it surprisingly free of charge. A local jeweler engraved the blade with the names of both Michaels, their schools, and graduation dates.
Dad and Michael share a unique experience of high school and their participation in a military program. There aren’t many of these high schools around any more.
At Marist, Dad carried an M1 Rifle to school during Junior and Senior year. The firing pin had been removed but it was a legitimate weapon. They marched and drilled on an outdoor lot adjacent to their downtown school. There was a firing range in the armory for practice with their .22 caliber rifles. Senior year, Dad traded the M1 Rifle for the comparatively safe sabre.
Times have changed. Things are just a bit different at Michael’s high school. Marmion is not a military school per say but the boys must participate in a 4-year leadership program. Michael choose the Army JROTC program, commenting that if he had to do leadership training, he was going to look good doing it.
Military class is part of his academic schedule all four years. Michael marches in morning and afternoon formations throughout the week. In Marksmanship class, he shoots with a pneumatic rifle. He knows the Army chain of command cold and is freakishly good at doing pull-ups and push-ups.
Michael is also active on the Flannigan Rifles, the school’s nationally competitive drill team. The boys compete in different events with their m19a3o3 Springfield rifles (rifles that are unable to fire, more like props). They are judged on precision, accuracy, and appearance. The Flannigan Rifles are really good and it is a pure delight to watch them.
Time will tell if they are able to compete this school year. They hope to defend their 2019 Army National Championship and compete at All Nationals in Daytona Beach. Both events were cancelled this past spring. As with most things these days, Covid has the final say.
In what has been a sobering senior year for Michael, finally receiving his sabre was a highlight. I watched from the hospital as former high school Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lynch presented the sabre to Captain Michael Rauch, Commander of Delta Company. I hope Dad reminded Michael that he would have outranked him in high school.
Dad doesn’t remember who presented him with his sabre back in the fall of 1957. I like to imagine my grandparents Mary and Robert Lynch handing it to him.
I do know that in 2020, Sam and Dad together handed it to Michael.
In an amazing coincidence, Dad and Sam dressed almost identically which made for a nice picture. I’m not sure the sabre will be used again after this year. But Michael should probably keep it at the back of his closet.
Just in case history repeats itself again.