I always loved a good parade. It could be the smallest Hometown, USA version: with high school bands playing, the mayor riding in a convertible furnished by the local Ford dealership, and the town fire department proudly demonstrating the lights and sirens for kids lining the curbs of Main Street. Or even the big productions of the Rose Parade in Pasadena or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York – they still capture my fancy and most likely always will. Parades are patriotism and Americana in top form.
Within this celebration of our towns and communities across the nation it is only appropriate that we take time to include a thanks to our Military Service, so we often see our Veterans honored on parade. I remember watching columns from the VFW march along in the annual Chief Joseph Days parade of my hometown and as I sat observing in the late July heat my child-minded concept of a Veteran was… all those “old guys” that were in a war a loooong time ago. In the beautifully ignorant bliss (call it innocence) of childhood, anything that happened before you were born is just not on your radar. My fourth grade class in elementary school would write letters to the soldiers in the far-off war that we saw glimpses of on the evening news. Desert Storm. The full concept of war was only beginning to occur to me and it remained a very distant and disconnected notion.
Considering this disconnect from the reality of world politics and the climate of conflict in the place and time of my in-so-far short lifespan, I can see how it came as a shock to me in my twenties that the Veterans of War were my peers. And my brothers.
I’m often at a loss for words so I write with a good old fashioned Roget’s Super Thesaurus on my desk (yes, I know there is an internet). If you have a copy (or the internet), take a moment to look up Veteran. Here you go – Veteran. Were you just transported back to my childhood mind – sitting curbside at a parade in the Late July heat? Now we’re both speechless.
I want to use this moment of speechlessness to quietly say something very loud. I owe a debt of Gratitude to the men and women of the United States Military Service – Young and Old. And may I constantly remind myself that these Veterans have made a great sacrifice in relinquishing the innocence of their youth – they are not just “old guys” from a long ago war. And in the case where they have reached an age of true wisdom and experience – they most likely gained their Veteran status many years prior as a young person in Military Service. Thank you for committing your youth, your strength, and your life to protecting the freedoms we enjoy in our country. May God Bless you and may our Nation show you the deep respect and honor you deserve.