It was a bright, sunny morning, and I was trying to get to the bank to make a deposit before it closed. Being Saturday, and having languished too long over my cup of coffee, I only had 30 minutes until closing time. So, I hurried.
Throw on some clothes, comb my hair and wiggle it up in a scrunchie, I bolt out the door and into the car. It’s only three miles away, but on the 25 mph road, it can take a lot longer than you’d think. I edge the car up to 35 and keep a sharp lookout for cops. Suddenly, up ahead, I spy flashing lights and an orange and white barricade. I step on the brakes, groaning.
It’s the Memorial Day parade, set to start at any moment. Getting to the bank would require a long detour, so I just hang a U-ie and head back home. Also, I have two little boys there with Grandma who might like to see the parade.
Get home, everyone runs to the car, we head back, park, walk up to the main street and find a spot in the shade.
Memorial day is about remembering those killed in battle. It’s about veterans… about the military. And no matter what you feel about war, you have to be respectful of the troops that served. These people, even if YOU don’t think they were fighting for our freedom, sacrificed a lot because THEY believed in the cause.
So, the parade starts with representatives of the four main branches of the military marching by carrying the US and armed forces flags. There is some polite applause. My Mom and I are clapping and I’m leaning over to tell my boys to clap becaue these guys (there didn’t happen to be any female soldiers there), really stand up for what they believe to be right, and make a lot of personal sacrifices to do it.
Then come a group of a dozen or so of the oldest veterans in the area, one in a wheel chair. They are wearing their uniforms and marching as best they can. At least three of them appeared to be crying. These are the guys who REALLY did something. No ill-managed foreign wars with questionable causes. These are WWII vets. A convertible holding an ancient looking man in uniform eases by. “Pearl Harbor Survivor” is displayed on a banner on the side of the car.
My Mom and I clap harder. The clapping of the rest of the crowd is dwindling and they begin to talk amongst themselves.
There is a bagpiper group next, some police march by, a small marching band from the local school. People are beginning to take interest again.
Then… the little league teams walk by. At least 100 kids wandering aimlessly down the road, not carrying signs saying “Thank the Vets” or waving US Flags. Not even wearing their baseball uniforms and walking in any organize fashion. Just milling kids. The crowd GOES WILD! It suddenly sounds like a rock concert, and I get mad.
Sure, these little boys and girls each have a cheering parent, and their voices together are loud. But come on! Why can’t they do ANYTHING besides show up and walk down the road. Is that worth wild applause? What about decorating bikes with streamers in red, white, and blue? What about waving flags? What about walking in some semblance of order?
My 9 year old son turns to me and asks, “Why are they cheering these kids so loud, Mom?” I tell him I don’t know.
And I don’t. I don’t understand what makes children playing baseball more worthy of respect and admiration than men who risked their lives fighting for what they believed in. I couldn’t help thinking about the Pearl Harbor survivor: Japanese planes dropping bombs all around him. Maybe his friends dying beside him as he tread water amid the burning reckage. Of course, I have no way of knowing if that is what it was like for him.
Memorial Day. It has deviated so far from “Remember Our Fallen Soldiers” to “Unofficial Start of Summer” that people just have no clue anymore.