Memorial Day! I remember when I was a youngster the Memorial Day parade came down the street in front of our house, the street was adorned with American Flags on every telegraph pole (they were not really telephone poles yet) and every porch had an American Flag and an appropriate flag identifying the branch of the military this husband/father served in. All my buddies and I would sit on the curb and watch as it went by. Fire Trucks, Police cars, Politicians, high school bands, what my friends and I waited for was the military, the bands, the men in their uniforms with their weapons marching proudly down our street, every branch was represented. Jeeps, trucks, we even had a tank and a howitzer on a trailer rumble down the street. We sat mesmerized as they passed, we all had fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and other family members that served in world wars I and II, and the Korean War, we were proud. History class had special meaning for us as we study these wars and the places our military went to preserve freedom. Our relatives never spoke of the wars they fought in other than to speak of the men they served with, the places they saw on R & R, and the uniforms and souvenirs carefully preserved and stored in a chest in the attic. We especially waited for that moment when the parade would halt as the commands were given for a twenty-one gun salute, rifles raised to the shoulder as they each fired three volleys. We would scramble to collect the spent casings (it only took one time picking one up before it cooled for us to finally find a use for those hankies we found under the tree on Christmas.)
As the parade moved on our parents set off fire crackers and we were allowed to wave sparklers as the smell of hot dogs and burgers on grills filled the air. All the neighbors came together for a block party. Volley ball and bad mitten nets appeared, the clang of horse shoes rang clear as the adults played and laughed. We played and ate copious amounts of food from the grill and plates of; potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and pretzels. As the evening set in and the sun slowly left the sky we played tag and hide and seek while the parents began cleaning up. We knew the day’s activities were ending as several of the fathers set off Roman Candles and sky rockets into the now dark sky of night. Yes we celebrated and honored our veterans, our dads and family members with pride.
As the years have gone by and my family moved, I have lost touch with childhood friends, my parents and grandparents have passed on and I no longer sit on the curb watching as the parade goes by, these days I am honored to be a part of the parades and ceremonies in the cemeteries honoring the brave men and women of the United States Military. How many of you, as you place your hand over your heart or salute the flag, and enjoy your Bar B Q’s, feel and share that pride with your children? Oh and please supervise the games and the fireworks and make sure your sons have a clean white handkerchief in their pockets.
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