Memorial Day: The comfort of tradition

Memorial Day is about remembering. Tradition is cultural memory. That brings me to my annual Memorial Day parade blog post. You’ll find the photos that I took this year almost indistinguishable from the photos I took last year and the year before. And I like it that way. Because it’s tradition and tradition is comforting.

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Our town parade always begins with classic cars. That’s about memory, right? The cars are from the eras when the men and women we are honoring today lived and died. Their distinctive lines take us back to the old days when things seemed simpler.

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The marching band is the highlight of the parade with its upbeat rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever”.  I love a band in general but this marching band brings back personal memories of my daughter’s wonderful four years as part of a supportive, tight-knit group. I was a roadie for the band so I worked side-by-side with the kids and got to know what interesting human beings they were. While I no longer know any of the faces in the band, it comforts me to know that the tradition continues. Yes, I get a little weepy as they march by so proudly.

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At the end of the parade, all the spectators and participants congregate to salute the flag, hear the mayor’s speech, and say a few prayers. But the most moving part of the ceremony is that each year the grand marshal reads the names of every serviceman from our town who lost his life in service to his country. They are the same names year after year. I can even recite some of them. But it’s so important to pay tribute to their memories. Such sacrifice should never be forgotten.

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Why does an occasion that’s essentially sad comfort me? Because it demonstrates that despite the sadness, life goes on. Although my daughter is grown and no longer plays her trumpet, the band continues to provide a home for other musical kids. The men whose memory we honor made their sacrifice so that my town and other towns across the world could hold parades, host cookouts, and raise our children in safety.

It’s as though the parade continues to march onward through the decades in a continuous stream. As we grow and change, we step in and out of the flow, but it is always there, waiting for us.

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