When I was a child, my family would rush to the town’s traffic circle and wait for the band to pass through, scanning the rows of uniformed teenagers for our favorite babysitters. When our children were small, we’d wait at the foot of our road for the parade, looking for neighbors’ kids.
Then the boys joined marching band. Never a football fan, I went to games and learned a bit about the sport. While others clamored for hotdogs during half-time, we watched the bands- first the visiting school and then ours. We traveled to games and became “band parent” devotees, embracing not just half-time entertainment, but competitions. These events, sometimes hours away and long into cold fall nights, brought bands together to perform for judges. These choreographed displays of music, dance, flag twirling, and acrobatics, many based on Broadway shows, seemed to become more elaborate each year. With cowbells and rattles, we’d sit in the stands, cheering for the Columbia High School Cougars Marching Band.
Yet Memorial Day isn’t just about marching bands. I always look in awe at the “Gold Star” mothers, some very old, driven at the head of the parade in open cars. I admire seeing people I knew dressed in their military uniforms. I tear up at taps (especially when Nathan played the trumpet).
Here’s an excerpt from my father’s Memorial Day address, May 2006, when he was
1st Selectman of Killingworth, Connecticut.
When I was a child we referred to this day as “Decoration Day” to honor the fallen heroes. We are again in the middle of a war and honor the men and women who are serving us now. Whether we agree that this war is necessary or not, there is no doubt of their honor and courage, even as we may question the leaders that sent them to war.
Today we are here to remember the physical and mental wounds suffered by those in uniform and the ultimate sacrifice of the fallen. We can support our men and women in uniform by working to end this war as soon as possible, honorably and quickly, so that they can return to their families and to a peaceful life.
No one can question our patriotism, but there is s difference between patriotism and Nationalism. The patriot waves the flag of the nation while singing “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”, with tears in his eyes. The nationalist cries “my country right or wrong” with blood in his eyes , as he waves the country’s flag.
We look to the Patriot for hope.
War is an obscenity. A worthy goal for this Memorial Day would be to create a world where flag -draped coffins are a rarity; a world where genocide is not tolerated. We owe this to those who have served before and those who serve now.
And we owe this to our children as well. (Martin Klein)
Some words to ponder during the parade, the cook-out, and the fireworks.
Happy Memorial Day!