Sunday, May 29, 2016
Tribute to The Memorial Day Parade...and my Dad...
I wrote this essay a long time ago. Not sure if it will ever find its home in my books. The Mommy-Go-Round was meant to be less serious. I always thought maybe it could be an add on at the end of A Heart of a Soldier, but we'll see. Anyway, the Memorial Day Parade has always had special meaning to me. As I thought about what kind of photo I'd post for Memorial Day, this essay came to mind so I thought I'd share it this Memorial Day. The photo is of my Dad in July, 1943, still in training in California. By the way, yes, I'll still be at the parade...<3
Schools Almost Out -- Here Comes “that” Parade… by Eleanor D. Alspaugh
I believe I love a parade as much now as I did when I was a kid. The costumes, the band’s cadence, the floats and the atmosphere… Let’s face it, parades have it all! You name the holiday, and there’s probably a parade for the occasion. Halloween, Christmas, and let’s not forget, the excitement of the Disney Parades! Like other parents, I was one happy and proud parent as I watched my daughter join the “Be Our Guest” and “Lion King” helpers on good old Main Street, U.S.A. Needless to say, my camera got a workout at that parade! So despite the pleas to sleep in I’ve heard so many times over so many years, I continue to drag my family to parade after parade, year after year, regardless of the occasion.
Parades to me are a lot like life, and like life, the theme of a parade is not always a “picnic.” The parades I’ve mentioned represent the fun and joyful side of life. But there’s another parade that represents another side of life….The Memorial Day Parade. Over the years, my children have asked why there was no candy thrown, why there are no crazy costumes or floats, where was Mickey Mouse, and so on. Just what kind of parade was I dragging them to anyway????
For years, like many other parents, I’ve tried to instill in my children the importance behind Memorial Day and attendance at the parade. My father was one of the luckier veterans of World War 2. He got to come home. During what can only be described by me or anyone else as a heroic and successful effort to reach tanks to rescue his unit under fire, he was hit. After receiving 3 bullets and an unforgettable and forever painful memory watching some of his closest friends die in an ambush, he eventually got to come home and live a relatively normal everyday life as a husband and a father. Exactly the kind of life our American soldiers have fought for and continue to fight to protect. He rarely spoke much about the battles he was in to me, but I’ll never forget that probably more than 30 years after that battle, tears still came when he did speak of the events and relived the pain of friends, our veterans, lost that day.
Maybe it’s those memories that live on through me and that tell me that we mustn’t forget them or their sacrifice. We must honor those who have served or serve now. They need to know that it was not in vain, and that there are many who also remember and appreciate the sacrifices they and others made to ensure freedom. So No…Neither I, nor my husband, nor my children, will remain seated as our flag and our veterans pass by. And if the “curbside whining” arises, my children will be reminded that these soldiers served even when they were tired or thirsty. There was no candy or soda passed out on that battlefield. For my Dad, there was only a farmer’s crop of cabbage which he dove behind to avoid enemy fire, their foiled attempt to end his life and prevent him from reaching our tanks for much needed backup. Each time these soldiers pass by, it is all I can do to hold back my tears of gratitude and respect… which admittedly makes it difficult at times to do the preaching I need to do when the lack of flying candy makes my little natives restless.
I suspect the events of September 11th also brought about the long overdue respect due our police force and our firefighters for their respective “battlegrounds.” I will not join those who see the fire trucks coming, consider the parade over and with so little respect, head to their cars to get a jump on the “traffic” of our relatively small town. I’ve often thought that those same individuals would be cheering to see those same rescue vehicles if it were their house on fire. It’s not that I wish it so….I just wish they could anticipate some of the gratitude they would feel, enough to motivate them to remain to the true end of the parade, giving those dedicated public servants the respect they deserve.
Tonight as I tucked my children in to bed, talk of tomorrow’s parade buzzed. I know there won’t be flying candy and instead of crazy costumes or floats, there will be servicemen in uniform, flags flying and senior veterans passing by. But this parade will give the children and parents a chance to pay our respects to those who so willingly have served or currently serve to defend our country. So as a proud daughter of an American Veteran, I will continue to remind my family that we really aren’t off on Memorial Day to save at “Memorial Day Sales,” or to get a head start studying for finals or even to get a few extra hours sleep which admittedly we parents could use. Instead I’ll try to pass down the gratitude, respect, and true pride for America and its Veterans that lives on in many hearts and that will always be in the heart of one Veteran’s daughter.
Note: I’m proud to add that my father, 1st Sergeant George Donald (December 20, 1914 – October 7, 1995) was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for Valor in saving 15 to 20 men’s lives and received the Purple Heart for the three bullet wounds through his nose and shoulder in 1944. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge and served in General Patton’s Sixth Armored Division.