When I was growing up, my grandparents used to have a HUGE Memorial Day party every year. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins and a variety of friends would descend upon Granny and Big G’s home in our most patriotic finery. The night before the big parade we would “help” my grandfather drive the two cars up to the Old Post Road and park them along the route as our viewing spot.
When parade day rolled around, everyone would gather and park at my grandparents, store their party contributions and we would troop up to our waiting viewing spot. The kids were allowed to clamber all over the cars to perch on the roof for an excellent viewing spot or we would battle for an adult’s shoulders. We would be looking out for friends and family that were old enough to march with their troops, team, or school band. But we were also looking for the people in uniform, young and old, enlisted or discharged that put on their uniforms and marched to honor those of their platoon, unit or troop that did not make it home. These men and women marched for those that could no longer do so and there was a great sense of respect that ran through the crowds when these groups marched by…despite the festive atmosphere.
The Memorial Day parade in Fairfield, CT was and still is, HUGE! The level of participation and respect offered to honor those that gave their lives to fight for and protect our freedoms has always been my ideal celebration of Memorial Day. My grandfather was an MP stationed in Italy during World War II. He rarely spoke about his service, it was wildly unpleasant; he saw behavior that was inhumane and disturbing. The few stories he did tell brought home to all of us that war is not a game and that the horrors of battle are too real. My other grandfather also served, as did numerous uncles and cousins. They all came home. But for those that did not come home, for those that gave their lives on the various battlefields around the world, we owe it to them to pay our respects and honor them on Memorial Day.
So as many of us are preparing to gather with friends and family for backyard barbecues or pool opening parties; the first official trip to the beach or a long weekend away, I ask that you find a Memorial Day parade wherever you may be and attend. Take an hour to stand and acknowledge the meaning of Memorial Day and pay your respect to those that made the ultimate sacrifice.