Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 17, 2013

Plenty to cheer about this fall

The Andover Townsman

---- — It’s not always the biggest gestures that are the most meaningful in a community.

And that’s the case with the efforts of a group of hardy souls a couple weekends ago.

Local veterans joined with Cub Scouts from packs 77 and 79 in town plus cadets with the Essex County Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron to make sure Andover’s deceased service men and women were given their proper due.

The group ignored the cold mist and rain to freshen up veterans’ graves with new American flags.

Michael Burke, the town’s director of veterans’ services, says the grave marking is a long-standing tradition in Andover.

Twice a year, volunteers fan out across the town’s 10 cemeteries to complete the task. Burke says more than 3,800 veterans who served from the Revolutionary War through the Global War on Terror are buried in Andover. Half of their graves get a new American flag during the first marking of the year occurring before Memorial Day, with the remaining half earning attention on the second go-around, leading up to Veterans Day.

Burke says by law, the flags on veterans’ graves must be changed annually. But we suspect it’s not the law that drives Burke and his team to adhere to the rule. There’s a greater sense of honor and obligation to those who have served our country that the task implies.

Burke says equally important is how the effort allows the town’s veterans to connect with local youths in meaningful ways.

The fact that Burke is instilling such patriotism in the town’s youngest residents by involving local Cub Scouts in the biannual marking of the graves is something we can all take immense pride in.

Red Sox bring excitement to fall

Fall is in the air in New England. The air is crisp and bright. Apples are ripe. The leaves are turning. This is our season to shine.

And for New England sports fans, it would be hard to imagine anything better. The Red Sox are advancing through the baseball playoffs. The Patriots and Bruins are winning. The Celtics are preparing to start another season. What more could we want?

There’s little in sports to compare with the excitement of playoff baseball. The Red Sox have not made an appearance in the American League Championship Series since 2008. After being eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the 2011 season and 2012’s disastrous last-place performance, this season’s bearded players on a “road to redemption” have produced a story line to rival that of the “Idiots” of 2004.

Bill Burt, Eagle-Tribune executive sports editor and Townsman contributing columnist, put together some telling statistics to convince those who won’t believe the Red Sox are the best in baseball right now.

The Red Sox had 36 come-from-behind wins during the regular season and two in the American League Division Series. The team’s losing streak all year was just three games. When scoring five or more runs in a game this season, the Red Sox were 75-11. The Red Sox were 78-5 when leading after seven innings.

The Red Sox already have given us the pleasure of seeing our team advance from “worst to first” during the regular season, having compiled the best record in the American League. Now, they’re giving us the thrills of playoff baseball.

If the Sox can advance through the ALCS, they will be in the World Series for the third time this still-young century. After all the years of struggle through the 20th century — 86 years without a World Series win — who could have imagined such an embarrassment of riches in our time? Go Red Sox!