The Parades Over – What Next?

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Welcome back, good to see you again.

In the last blog entry I shared Part One of our Memorial Day experience with some guests from Austria and the UK.

My wife and I wanted to have our visitors experience a typical Memorial Day in America – parade, Memorial Ceremony and a cook-out with hamburgers and hot dogs.

I wrote on Tuesday about our wonderful community parade.  Albeit simple, short and humble, it’s still wonderful.

I mentioned that as tradition has it, all the parade spectators dutifully fold in behind the procession and follow it to the village green for the Memorial Day Ceremony.

Up to this point our guests were totally enamored by the experience.  The parade, flags, the people and the energy was a spectacle of Americana and patriotism at its best.

They seemed particularly impressed by the number of people who came out for the event.  They shared that parades are rare in the UK and most surprising to me was that they indicated that the people in the villages seldom (or, if at all) come together as a community group.

I knew they were enjoying the parade but I wondered how will our foreign visitors would view the Memorial Day Ceremony memorializing those in the military who lost their lives serving their country; particularly those who lost their life in war.

The Memorial Day Ceremony

It was a Norman Rockwell setting.

The parade had spilled all of its followers on to the village green and our little community band was assembled on the Bandstand.  Then the ceremony began.

The Ceremony:

  • Greeting to get everyone’s attention – which was a chore
  • Prayer
  • Raising of the flag in the center of the green with bugle playing To the Colors
  • Singing of our National Anthem
  • Reading of the winning essay on Memorial Day by the Junior High student
  • Mayor saying a few words and reading the Gettysburg Address (I had to explain to our friends the significance of the speech and that it was from Abraham Lincoln)
  • Laying of a wreath at the flag pole
  • Playing of Taps while the flag was lowered to half mast
  • Singing of God Bless America was the finale

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It was the perfect tribute.  The ceremony did not glorify war or promote a military machine, but celebrated those who served their country and sacrificed their life.

Walking back to the house after the ceremony our guests expressed genuine appreciation and respect for the ceremony and the holiday in general.

Then I instinctively said something that I had never thought of before but fully believe.  I shared that the two holidays that are the best descriptors of the American spirit and psyche were Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

I should have stopped at this brilliant articulation of who we are as a country.  I should have remembered that when one gets full of themselves, then “stupid” is lurking close by.

My brilliant monologue continued by stating that these two holidays mentioned are better descriptors of who we are than even the 4th of July when we celebrate our independence from… huh… (awkward moment).  They laughed.

Our UK friends were impressed by the patriotism and indicated that it was not very prevalent where they are from.  One of them was remarkably transparent (for a Brit) and somber when he hypothesized that he thought their country was ashamed of its Imperial past.

I felt somewhat bad for him so I gently took him to task.  I shared my genuine respect and fondness for the UK and told him that “yes” there were significant negatives to their former Imperialism, but substantial good came from that period also.

I continued by saying that someone could point to some negative aspects of the US military presence in the world but the good must be celebrated.

No country is perfect.  But I was even more proud to be an American after spending Memorial Day with friends from across the pond.

See you Monday.

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