The Hometown Parade: Getting our Veterans Back

I moved to Homewood, my home town, at the beginning of April in order to assist my father whose health was failing him and who needed my help to set up long-term health care so that he could regain much of the mobility he had lost in the hospital.

Today was Memorial Day and after seeing Dad (who was a veteran of the Korean War era) in the rehabilitation facility, I returned home and walked to downtown Homewood just in time to see the hometown Memorial Day parade. It was very simple: representatives of the various armed forces were escorted by the policemen and first responders whose vehicles were flashing lights but silent out of respect for the fallen servicemen to whom this day was dedicated.

Along the side of the road were the residents of Homewood, including Boy Scout troops selling American flags, proud parents of the children in the various marching bands, and the families of the veterans for whom the parade was being put on. We all waved and applauded as the various veterans groups passed, and I had a tear in my eye when the patriotic songs were being played by the marching bands which followed.

I had a chance to see the young boys and girls who had braved the inclement weather in order to be part of a parade, and then when they passed–it was over, almost as soon as it began! Everybody followed the last part of the parade as they went over to the Veterans Memorial in downtown Homewood.

By then the veterans had gathered, and I heard speeches from the heads of the local veterans group, very brief and to the point. Finally the wreaths were laid, one for each of the major conflicts of the past century: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. I assumed that this covered both the first and the second Gulf War and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, and I was sobered by the fact that it has lasted longer than any of the other wars, or as the papers like to refer to them these days, “conflicts.”

I was so heartened by the presence of the community coming together to honor the veterans who had passed away, and those who were still among us, although some of them endured wounds which they will carry for the rest of their lives. Each of the missing veterans has left a hole in the lives of the families left behind, and it was important for us all to try to fill that gap as best we could, with memories of their lives.

For if we don’t remember, then we will not have a chance to weave together again the tattered fabric that remained when they left us, or when a part of them was taken away from their own lives. I loved hearing their speeches, and the only thing I felt when I left was gratitude for what they had done for us, and a longing to hear more. As Sebastian Junger wrote in today’s Washington Post:

“Let them speak. They deserve it. In addition to getting our veterans back, we might get our nation back as well.”

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