Monday morning, we lined Main street. Dressed in red, white, and blue while waving the stars and stripes we craned our necks to see the parade start down the street.
I was surprised at the turnout. The Memorial Day parade in our little town is notoriously short and simple. No big floats. Not a lot of entries. No candy throwing. Yet, here we stood 10 a.m. on a holiday and the streets were lined with people. But we came not for the show, not for what we would get. We came together to remember.
The high school drummers started their rhythmic beat, keeping the band members in time and just a few steps behind veterans with graying hair peaking out of their caps, backs straight, shoulders squared, holding the colors. Decorated cars carried those veterans too fragile to walk. Bodies once firm and resolute, broken and bent by the use of age.
Halfway down Main street, the drumming stopped, and on the beat, all feet stood still. The street silenced. An older gentleman spoke over a loudspeaker and guided us through remembering. Heads bowed, hats off, the town paused, in prayer and in purposeful memory in front of our town’s set of war memorials. Veterans from various branches of service and wars, threw wreaths from the memorials into the river, honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Twenty-one shots fired for their ultimate loss.
The march resumed down Main Street and up the hill to the cemetery. As the procession passed in front of our family, the kids’ eyes lit up. “Hey, that’s our friend’s grandpa!” followed by, “That’s the crossing guard at our school.”
War and military service then switched from nameless, faceless masses of people fighting and sacrificing their time and safety for our own. Instead, we saw individuals – grandpas, fathers, aunts, sisters, friends. It was personal.
That’s what happens when we come together to remember those who’ve given everything for us. Rather than taking for granted the collective “they,” when we gather as communities and recognize the loss, the price, we see individuals we know. Faces. Names. Families. This is our community. These are our people. This isn’t just “them” protecting “us.”
This is why we need to come together as communities, as families, and remember. Battle and sacrifice needs to be personal. Otherwise it becomes too easy to forget, to take the sacrifice for granted, to just say let “them” take care of the global problems.
Sacrifice should never be given in a vacuum. We share this globe with millions. We are each responsible for the piece and the people within our reach. Let it always be personal. For when it’s personal, it is not easy, and war should never be easy for anyone.
To all who have served or are serving, thank you. To those who have lost your brothers, sisters, uncles, grandpas, cousins, and friends, we see you. We are deeply sorrowed and do not take your loss lightly.
May we always remember.
photo by linder6580 on sxc.hu. text by amelia.