Monday, May 31, 2004
You carefully dress in your uniform, thinking all the time that you were doing this to honor those that wore a very different uniform, and sacrificed more than you will ever be asked to. Slip on the long, black wool pants and make sure there are no wrinkles or snags. Then it's that heavy black wool coat. Ask a friend to make sure there is no lint or anything smudging it up. Then you crowd around the little mirror to adjust your hat and make sure you have everything straight and correct.
It's hot. Really hot. By the time everyone starts wandering to their area it's 8:30 and already 85 degrees with no breeze in sight. But you know it is such a small thing compared to the reason you are here.
Finally the call comes for everyone to get in their places. It's time to begin. As you stand in place you start to really look around you. Every where American flags are proudly displayed. Children and grandparents sitting along the street in their lawn chairs. Teenagers standing on the street corners, families gathered on their front porches. Red, white and blue - these colors are all you see for what seems like miles. The entire town is here. For one purpose. To remember and celebrate.
It's time for you to move out. You stand tall and proud - it may seem like a small thing, but it's the only way you know to demonstrate how proud you are to be an American, how grateful you are for the sacrifice of the men and women that gave their lives for our freedom. The very freedom that allows events like this.
The music begins and the crowd goes quiet. Then you begin your march. It's not far, only 2 miles. And it's important, it's an honor and you want to do your very best. You play with all your heart, looking straight ahead. You play to show your pride, in America and the men and women that serve. You play because of the sacrifices they made to make this possible. With the tears flowing down your face, you play God Bless America and can feel it in your soul.
All across this land today will be parades and celebrations of our freedoms. Every year for 6 years I was fortunate enough to march in our town's Memorial Day Parade. Today it is some other young American with the feeling of pride at being able to show their gratitude, their patriotism. It is important that these traditions continue. They may change, evolve - but they must continue. Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor. We should do that every day, but especially today.
So - enjoy your parades and celebrations. Teach your children to remember and take pride in our past.