How A Small Town Celebration Filled Me With Gratitude

Veteran – a person who has served in a military force, especially one who has fought in a war

A Day To Honor Veterans

A few days ago, our nation celebrated Veterans Day.  I’m ashamed to admit it isn’t a holiday I have always celebrated.  This year was different. 

Other than a few cousins or spouses of cousins, my family doesn’t have a strong military heritage.  My dad served in the Coast Guard, but not during war time.  My father-in-law served in the army during World War II, but he has been gone many years.  

My husband and I spend a lot of time in a little island community on the west coast of Florida.  With a population of less than 2,000, it’s quintessential small-town America (except for the winter months when northern visitors escape their colder climates to enjoy a bit of paradise).  We happened to be there on November 11, Veterans Day.

The city of Anna Maria organized a memorable celebration and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law joined us for the event.

After we enjoyed a lunch of grilled hamburgers — because what is more American than grilled hamburgers? — we walked a couple of blocks to Pine Avenue to watch the parade.  The parade route was only half a mile long but both sides of the street were lined with people, from toddlers to octogenarians.  Someone passed out little American flags for us to wave.

I Love A Parade

A police Jeep, bag piper in a traditional kilt and a Marine Corps color guard led the way. Uncle Sam followed close behind.  There were several convertibles carrying veterans and since it’s an island, a pirate ship float with pirates throwing candy and beads.  Three of the four of us were in the marching band in high school so we were delighted to see and hear four high school marching bands.  My brother-in-law spent many years as a band director and music teacher so it was really a treat for him.  We found it humorous that one of the bands marched to The Horse, a tune that we played in the 1970’s!  Three stately horses with riders from the Sheriff’s Department brought up the rear.

Although the parade didn’t last long, that wasn’t the end of the festivities.

A Patriotic Program

Everyone followed the parade to the small park across from the pier on the bay.  Chairs were set up and one of the bands, the one that played The Horse, was seated under a tent.  The mayor, himself an Army Veteran, welcomed everyone.  After a prayer of invocation and a trumpeter played Taps, the colors were presented and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.  Everyone stood at attention while the band played the National Anthem and a small World War II era plane did a fly-by.  The next part of the program brought tears to my eyes.

First, the mayor asked for all of the spouses and significant others of veterans to come forward to be recognized.  Then, he asked for anyone who had lost someone during a war to come forward.  Finally, he recognized the veterans from each of the military branches.  There were elderly men from World War II and the Korean War to younger men and women from the more recent wars in the middle east. A gentleman in our row was a Vietnam Vet.

As I watched those men and women stand up to be recognized, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things they must have experienced, the horrors they may have faced.  Were they afraid? Do they still have nightmares? Do they try not to think about those times?  These men and women were all someone’s son or daughter.  Some mother and father had to say goodbye to them, not knowing if they would ever see them again.  I can’t imagine.

It gave me an enormous sense of gratitude.  These men and women served their country in a sacrificially .  They went into harm’s way to protect the rest of us Americans.  What they did enabled us to enjoy a balmy afternoon on an island paradise watching a parade and celebrating their service.  

After the program we walked back home, stopping at the local history museum to enjoy a dish of ice cream provided by a favorite local ice cream shop. It was small town America at its best. 

Thank You For Your Service

To all of the veterans, their spouses and families — Thank you so much for your service to our country and for the sacrifices you have made.  May God bless you and keep you.  

A grateful citizen.

One thought on “How A Small Town Celebration Filled Me With Gratitude

  1. That was a special day in so many ways. We were both amazed at the parade participation and all the veterans and thankful patriots who were celebrating a day to honor those who sacrificially served our country. Freedom is not free. Loved the day…another memory added to my “memory book!”

    Liked by 1 person

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