Monday, May 31, 2010

Proud to be an American

On Memorial Day this year, I walked in the Golden Valley Memorial Day parade with the Boy Scouts (I am an Assistant Scoutmaster in my son's troop). The parade had a small-town feel to it: just a one-and-a-half mile stroll down Golden Valley Road on a picture-perfect morning, lined with American flags (hundreds of them, according to the city), past homes and the country club (and a few foursomes already on the fairway) before reaching the strip malls and city center at Winnetka Avenue.

One jocular resident remarked that by the size of the crowd at the end of the parade (probably several hundred), "there must be no one left in town, they're all here." Parade units and onlookers alike gathered in front of a temporary podium under a warming sun, waiting for the program to begin.

The program had all of the elements of a proper Memorial Day observance. The weather was perfect. The Armstrong High School band and choir played and sang. The mayor read a proclamation. Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion groups read the honor roll of their members who had passed away since Memorial Day last year. Many youth groups attended: the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, ROTC groups. An Air Force brigadier general told a harrowing combat story to capture the importance of remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The dead were honored with a three-round volley, Taps, and a wreath was laid to the playing of bagpipes. The proceedings were opened with an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, and The Star Spangled Banner, and closed with a benediction. And in a truly small-town gesture, the grilled hot dogs, chips, and pop were free (take one of each please).

There was the usual panoply of elected officials and political candidates on the dais, but there was almost no campaign activity (save for a sole Emmer for Governor volunteer). The focus was on honoring the military dead, POW-MIAs, and active duty military and veterans, and expressing gratitude for their service.

So you see there are places left in America, even in the liberal-progressive Twin Cities, where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, and God Bless America is sung, without irony; where they pray for peace and acknowledge the cold reality of war without demonizing the military; where people understand that freedom is not free; where citizens of all ages can gather to celebrate and preserve what we agree on as Americans.

No comments: