As I returned home from a grueling trip late Sunday night, my headlights caught the red, white and blue of small American flags planted at the end of each neighbor’s driveway… courtesy of another neighbor whose husband passed away from a military illness. Thus is the beginning of my Memorial Day weekend.
When I moved here years ago I was surprised with this annual tradition. Now my heart warms as I watch the flag flutter in the breeze. Memorial Day… a time to reflect on the men and women who died so I could live free.
All across America, in rural towns and large cities, everyone stops for a moment to pay tribute… then party hardy as this is also the official beginning of summer fun.
I spoke to a woman this year who commented she is appalled by all the parades and pomp and circumstance surrounding this holiday. She believes this day should be marked with quiet services and placements of ribbons on the grave sites of our fallen, and that is all. She hides in her home the rest of the day, refusing to attend any parades or cook burgers on the grill. How sad.
My Memorial Day was spent attending a small hometown parade in Farmingdale, NJ with a friend. In an effort to arrive before the streets were blocked, I left my house early. As I sat at a red light in the center of town I watched as a wreath of flowers was placed at the foot of a monument in honor of our fallen warriors. A rather large semi-circular gathering stood in silence as a dedication was made. The crowd quickly dispersed to ready themselves for the more important task of getting ready for the annual parade.
I drove to my friend’s house and marveled at the sight.This entire town was decked out in red, white, and blue… straight from a movie set!! Flags, streamers, bows… you name it. If it was red, white, blue or any combination of these, it was flapping in the breeze or plastered on cars, doors, and fences.
At 11:30 the streets were already lined with chairs and coolers, the streets were being closed off, and swarms of people were milling around talking and laughing waiting for the 1:00 start. Side streets were filled with band members, fire trucks, military personnel, floats, bag pipers, and kids… all lining up for their placement in the parade. Electric sparks of excitement filled the air.
The parade began with another dedication to our service men and women, and a prayer for their safety in current conflicts. Military Color Guards presented the flags, as a State Police Officer atop a mighty horse saluted, and the entire town recited our Pledge of Allegiance… followed by the singing of our National Anthem. And so it began!
I was fortunate to be standing across from the Grand Stand and was able to hear the commentary as each passing group and float was presented to the Mayor and other dignitaries. Each one had a dedication to our Military and a Thank You to the volunteers and paid members of local Police and Fire Departments for their service.
Standing under the shade of a very old tree, I surveyed the crowd and wondered… Isn’t THIS what Memorial Day is all about??? Isn’t THIS what earlier generations fought for??? Gave their lives for??? For future generations to be gathered together and celebrate with laughter and smiles without the fear of being bombed, shot, thrown in jails or camps for speaking their minds??? Of course… thanks to them these parades can be repeated across America with no fear of retribution.
I think the woman who hates these parades and all the fuss would think differently if she actually attended one, and sat near the Grandstand.
I am glad we have a day specifically set aside to remember these brave and unselfish souls. So to that I say… Happy Memorial Day!!! I understand a lot of others don’t agree with my glee… and I am sorry for that. I am not being disrespectful, nor making light of the serious circumstances for the holiday. I am simply showing my happiness and appreciation for what they provided for me.
Thank you Farmingdale, NJ for showing me how a small rural American town celebrates in style!!! And THANK YOU to all the men and women who fought for the freedom I have (and sadly take for granted) today. For without you… I wouldn’t be the person I am today… Happy and Free!