“Sure, I will be there,” I told her. This was, after all, an easy one: Small town, short commute, short parade route. It won’t kill me. It is for a cause in which I believe, and one I want to support. I had decided that a few years ago, when I first saw The Spirit of ‘45 march in another local parade that I was attending as a viewer on Veteran’s Day. Not too many days later, I found a Letter to the Editor in our local newspaper, thanking citizens for supporting The Spirit of ‘45, and asking for photos of WWII Vets. I immediately knew I wanted to send a photo of my dad – my own WWII hero. Thus the connection began.
The Spirit of ’45 originated a few years ago, as a nationwide program intended to bring honor and appreciation to our World War II Veterans. But it’s also a bit more than that, I think. Their motto is: “Keep the Spirit of ’45 alive.” To me, that’s more than just appreciation for our service men and women of the time, though that would be enough. But this program is also about understanding victory after a war well fought which was necessary for keeping our freedoms intact. It’s about welcoming those home that served us well, that offered up their lives and sacrifice simply because they knew it was the right thing to do. It’s about joy, and pride and unity of nation. It’s about the greatness of a nation, because of the principles on which we were founded. This is not a political group and The Spirit of ’45 works hard at keeping it that way, but for me there is a whole lot to gain in remembering our nation in their victory, and thinking about that which could have been lost.
As we walk a parade route, one can easily recognize those that “get it”. They stand a little longer, clap a little harder; they are anxious to make eye contact. They want us to know that they are appreciative of us bringing recognition to our Veterans. And we want to say thank you to them, too.
|Those that Get It|
There have been many memorable moments from the parades I have chosen to walk. One such moment was the time, a member from our group walked over to the sidewalk where the viewers sat watching attentively. Our member wanted to shake the hand of a World War II Vet he had spotted in the audience - a rare site, indeed. Turned out that vet happened to be my dad.
Another moment ingrained in my memory is the time we participated in the largest parade in our area. It is an evening parade that zigzags through the downtown streets of the largest city in our area. I was thoroughly enjoying the soft, summer night air while seeing these city streets and businesses from a completely different perspective. I usually only saw the heart of the city from a driver’s viewpoint, with bustling pedestrians in the crosswalks and cars weaving in and out of the 3 traffic lanes anxious to get to their location. Though the streets were obviously now packed with more people present than ever seen on a busy work day, there was a certain calm over the city that was actually quite pleasant. The reception we received was incredible – this was an Armed Forces Day Parade and there were many military entries, with the goal being to honor those that have served our nation.
I was at the very back of our group this time, in the very last row. There were probably 45 teens and adults marching with us this time, so I could see why viewer acknowledgement of our group would wind down by the time it got to me. We also would soon be arriving at the end of the parade route, so those we were encountering now, had probably been waiting a long time. I was getting tired, and ready to see the end of the route, but I happened to see a young man, probably in his 20’s remain standing throughout the entire time we were in his view. He was a bit radical looking, so it surprised me to see this type of appreciation from him. It shouldn’t surprise me I know, but sometimes it seems our youth don’t quite understand something so far removed from their lifetime. But this young man stood attentively, applauding until the very last line of us; and all of a sudden there he was looking at me, nodding his approval as we made eye contact. Almost out of sheer reflex, I pointed my finger at him and mouthed “Thank you!” He approved; this meant something to him, I could see it in his eyes. My eyes fill with tears even as I write this, thinking about that kind of understanding and support from someone his age.
Yesterday as we marched, I found myself extremely glad I had said yes when my friend asked me if I would be there. It was a subdued crowd for the most part, but I saw lots of old friends and customers from my book store lining the streets which made it a lot of fun. The walk was easy, the morning temperature mild. Applause was not rampant, but there were those that made a point to show their appreciation for a generation that should never be forgotten. This is simply a small way to ensure that what those men and women did will live on in our history; and with a hope that the spirit from that victory can be reawakened and renewed in pride and appreciation for a nation that desperately needs to remember and understand.
Freedom surely isn’t free. And it isn’t something we can only defend once in a while, but rather it is something that requires eternal vigilance.
I will do what I can to keep that spirit alive…and to honor and thank those such as the guy in the photo above - as well as the one that took the time to shake his hand because he is one that gets it.
|Daddy and Me|
Note: After I wrote, I read. I found this article that said what I could never say. I hope you will take time to read it: http://www.spiritof45.org/AINWWIIeditorial.pdf From the article:Now, that's the Spirit of '45!
"They were, as my dad said, “just a bunch of dumb kids” when they stepped up to halt the greatest surge of tyranny, aggression, and outright evil the earth has ever seen. Then they helped rebuild their shattered world."
*"Last year, both Congress and the Senate passed a resolution (HR 226) in support of Spirit of ’45 Day. Spirit of ’45 Day is observed every year on the second Sunday in August." ~ The Spirit of '45 Website