The annual Memorial Day parade in Milford Michigan happens today, starting at around 11 AM. The first ½ hour of the parade is devoted to things like bands and military vehicles and boy scout troops and other crowd pleasing stuff, and then we get to walk by – the active duty troops and veterans of various wars. We are usually lined up 2-abreast and with 700-800 marchers, it takes a while for everyone to pass by. The crowds lining the streets stand and applaud the whole time, many shouting out “Thank You”. Along the route there are children handing out flowers that are supplied by the local florist.
Whether you are a marcher in the parade or a spectator it can be quite an emotional moment and is certainly a lot different than when I returned from my tour in Viet Nam. We had to sneak back into the towns and villages that we can from back then, hoping no one would recognize us as soldiers in that very unpopular war.
When they line us up for the parade they put the ranks in order of the eras of the wars that one might have been in at the time. So, the WW II and Korean War vets go before the Viet Nam vets. Both their ranks and our group are fast thinning, as we age. I suspect that out group will be at the head of the parade before too long. At the head of each marching group a banner proclaims the era and the number of Americas who died in that war or conflict. Some marchers are not vets themselves but march carrying pictures of family members or loved ones lost in the various wars.
So, today I march. Today, unlike those many years ago, I get to hold my head high and accept the applause that was missing back then for a service that I accepted and rendered for my country. I’m thankful for all of the people who come out to line the streets and I’m thankful for all of those who gave so much more than I to defend our country and our liberties so that we can have days like today. I’ll see you there.