Veterans Day tribute: Veteran puts military colors on parade

PORT LUDLOW — In Shakespeare’s Scottish play, the hero, Macduff, fulfills the witches’ prophecy and avenges the death of his wife, his child and his king by slaying Macbeth.

The fatal duel is preceded by Macbeth uttering the fateful line, “Lay on, Macduff, and damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!”‘

But Larry MacDuff wasn’t aware of his family’s connection to one of the most famous lines in English literature until his high school class studied the play.

“All of a sudden I was a hit with my classmates,” MacDuff said. “That was my claim to fame.”

MacDuff is a U.S. Army veteran who traces his ancestry back to an old Scottish clan associated with courage on the battlefield.

On Saturday, he will combine pride in his military and cultural heritage by marching with the Scottish-American Military Society.

“We carry the Stars and Stripes, the St. Andrew’s flag, the SAMS post flag and the POW flag,” MacDuff said. “We also carry the service flags — Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.”

As a member of the SAMS color guard, MacDuff will be part of the largest Veterans Day parade in the Northwest, which takes place in Auburn.

But as a MacDuff, his military heritage goes back more than 10 centuries.

Shakespeare dramatized the struggle for the Scottish throne with the sword fight between Macbeth and Macduff, but it is based on history — the MacDuffs’ rights included seating the early medieval Scottish kings on the throne and leading the army into battle.

Following tradition

MacDuff’s father followed tradition and fought in World War II.

Born and raised in Indianapolis, his first-born son was aware of ancestry from the time he was a “wee boy.”

“He was very proud of his Scot’s heritage,” MacDuff said.

“Until I was older, I didn’t know my father’s name was Frank. Everybody called him ‘Mac.’ I was ‘Little Mac.”

One Christmas, MacDuff’s mother bought a bolt of the family tartan and made outfits for the family of seven to wear to church.

That was the MacDuff Red, the clan’s dress tartan.

Now MacDuff has two clan kilts, one the dress tartan for formal occasions, and the other the hunting tartan.

Completing the uniform are hose — they are not called socks — in an argyle pattern.

The hose are held up with flashes, garters with a braided ribbon, into which is tucked a sgian dhub, or black dagger.

MacDuff’s is a “wee knife” with a staghorn handle.

“It’s part of the uniform,” MacDuff said.

“I’m not into broadswords, claymores or dirks, but some of my friends are. The Scottish are enamored of edged devices.”

He also has a third kilt on order: the U.S. Army tartan, one of four military service tartans that was recently approved by Lord of Lions in Scotland.

For parades, he adds white spats over shiny black boots and his Army uniform shirt.

Members of the SAMS are allowed to wear any decorations they earned during active service, but there is no distinction in rank.

“A sergeant is the same as a colonel,” he said.

Stationed in Korea

A member of Army Signal Corps, MacDuff was stationed in Korea with the 7th Infantry in the mid-1960s.

Using the G.I. bill, he studied business and marketing at Indiana University, taking a job in sales with DuPont after graduating in 1974.

Before retiring in 2002 at the age of 56, MacDuff spent 28 years with the company and tells this story about a chance encounter.

“I went to a sales meeting, and there was a fellow there by the name of John MacBeth,” he said.

“We had more fun going around together and introducing ourselves.”

MacDuff had been out of the military for 30 years when he ran across a SAMS group at a Highland festival.

He joined the post in San Francisco, and is a member of the Western Washington post, Mt. Ranier 1889, named for the year Washington became a state.

In addition to marching in parades and attending Scottish festivals, the post provides a color guard for annual observances at the Purple Heart memorial at Veterans Park in Enunclaw and the Marine Corps Mt. Ranier Memorial.

“I joined mainly because it is a veterans organization,” MacDuff said. “It was a natural.”

Clan lost chieftain

Clan MacDuff lost its chieftain years ago, he said, so there is no leader and no castle.

He belongs to the Clan MacDuff Society of America, and has traced his ancestry back to John MacDuff, who was born in 1780.

He’s also visited places in the Midwest that were designed by his great-great grandfather, Peter MacDuff, an architect who emigrated to the United States before the Civil War.

Larry MacDuff has visited Scotland three times, and visited the family’s castle, now a ruin, and the ancestral lands on the Firth of Forth in Fife Shire.

At home on Mount Christie Court in Port Ludlow, MacDuff flies the American flag.

But on April 6, he flies the blue and white flag of St. Andrew, the official flag of Scotland, because it’s Tartan Day.

“It was formally recognized by both houses of Congress six or seven years ago to honor the Scottish contribution to the United States,” MacDuff said..

And on special occasions, he dons the kilt.

Most recently, he put on his SAMS uniform to wear the Kirking of the Tartans, a ceremony honoring Scottish descendants, at First Presbyterian Church in Port Townsend.

Afterward, at coffee hour, he answered the usual questions about his kilt and his famous name.

“The women all know Shakespeare,” he said.

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