We took the 3 youngest boys to the Memorial Day Parade. I think for the boys, and even for myself, it started out as just a fun outing on a beautiful day.
Who wouldn’t want to go out into the main town, see friends and snack on red, white and blue sprinkle donuts. Our parade consists mainly of veterans, soldiers on leave from active duty, police, fire fighters and boy scouts and girl scouts. Each branch of the military was represented. They walked, drove jeeps, were driven in convertibles and wore full, dress military uniforms and looked resplendent. Military aircraft fly over head, making the heart of each young American swell with pride as we look up to see the power of America in all its celebratory glory. We attend a parade in a very small town. I can just imagine what it must be like in a big city, with even more pomp and circumstance to see.
This year I thought the attendance was excellent and it made me proud to see young and old, men, women and children stand and clap in respect as we honored our men and women in service.
As the parade began, the morning changed immediately from sitting in the sun and watching a fine show, to a chance to explain to the boys exactly what was really going on and why. The parade began with some really, really old men walking proudly, leading the way because they were World War 2 veterans. If you are a WWII vet and you were 18 years old in 1945, the year the war ended, then you would be 85 years old this year.
I was able to explain to the boys that we stand to show honor and clap with gratitude as they pass because they sacrificed and lived to tell of the victories and sorrows of a war that we had to win if we wanted to save the free world from the brutal tyranny of Hitler and his horrible military. There were veterans from the Korean War, a war that the boys really didn’t know much about, others were dressed as Daughters of the Revolution, U.S.O. entertainers and then came the veterans from Viet Nam. There were many of them, representing all the branches and to the credit of our town, we clapped, waved, high-fived and saluted them and thanked them out loud.
The next groups were the soldiers representing Desert Storm and then the conflicts in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Some carried signs telling the numbers of those who were lost in each war, some carried signs with the names of fallen soldiers and some carried pictures of those who were POW’s and never heard from again. There were lists and lists of people who gave their all for our country and freedoms.
In between the different military groups were a couple of high school bands, Knights of Columbus and other groups throwing out bits of candy to kids. It was during these moments that we sat down for a moment or so, but not for long as there’d be another group come along that needed us to show them gratitude and respect.
It was so great for the kids to watch from a front row seat, military jeeps, old and new, Hummers, amphibious vehicles and of course all the horses, motorcycles and fire trucks. It was a great teaching moment to be able to show them, up close and personal, the people who serve us in our own community in their different careers.
As the streets of the town were clearing, we left to grab a bit of lunch at Taco Bell. In the restaurant, there was a young guy about 15-18 years old talking rather loudly and authoritatively to a family about soldiers and war. The family was a mom, dad and 2 kids about 9 and 6 years old. I’m not sure if the teenager was part of the family or just a friend. He was saying horrible things about soldiers raping and killing women and children and shooting people right in the face. I kept watching the dad to see if he’d say something to this kid, but he just kept eating his taco. David started to bristle right away at what the kid was saying, but I assumed he was talking about ‘enemy’ troops and what they probably do in times of war.
I really dislike conflict, but as soon as we realized that this boy was talking about our troops and making it sound like this is the way our military behaves all the time, I knew David was going to blow, and I was ready for it. The moment this kid said there is no terrorism or war on terrorism and we should stop pretending to fight it, David was out of his chair, half way across the restaurant telling this kid very loudly that he was wrong, should be ashamed of himself for saying such disrespectful things especially on Memorial Day, when we’ve just spent the morning thanking our military for all they’ve done for us.
I loved the surprised look on this boys face when he looked up to see a stranger speak up to him and tell him he was way out of line for speaking that way. The dad of the family told David to stay out of their conversation to which David replied that their loud conversation included the entire restaurant which, almost for sure, included several veterans or families of veterans. He said that we were proud of our country, our service men and women and it was a disgrace that a kid would speak that way. The dad replied that his father and grandfather served as well which of course made him look very foolish to allow this kid to speak the way he did.
First I thought, what an ignorant kid! Doesn’t he know that because of the sacrifice of those that have gone before us, he has the right to live the way he does? He has the freedom to hang out at the mall or the skate park, or even do something important with his life or not. Then I realized that he is just an inexperienced child who has not been taught, shown or guided in his upbringing in a way that has helped him to understand why he is able to live in such a rich and free country where he can choose to go down any path that he wants to make his own way in this world.
Secondly, I realized that it takes time and effort to train and educate kids and a great deal of wisdom and gratitude within yourself to instill the right values in young ones who have not seen much of the world. When I saw a man with graying hair/life experience, I jumped to the conclusion that he would be the one with the…I’ll just say guts, to speak up to that kid and set him straight. Instead he just sat there like a weak-minded person allowing the kid to spout off!
Well I guess I’ll never know how that conversation impacted that family, but I know the impact it had on me. I was proud to have a man who would have the guts to speak up for what’s right. Someone needed to say something and maybe give them a hint that they need to do a little more investigating into some facts before they speak so disrespectfully in public and potentially hurt those around them.
The kids definitely got a Memorial day eyeful and earful. This is homeschooling at its best. You can’t buy this kind of education, and, I have to admit, a little bit of entertainment as well.