My 9-year-old S was in the local Veteran's Day Parade today with his Cub Scout pack. G and I took the younger three kids to watch.
A small town parade is a great way to spend an afternoon, no matter how you slice it. The parade participants hand out candy and tchochkes to the kids. The announcer greets parade participants he knows personally. You are sure to see a couple of kids from the ward playing the clarinet or the trombone.
This was our first time attending for Veteran's Day. Here is what struck me: We were all there. Our little town was so well represented, and I do kind of think our town represents the United States in its diversity and patriotism.
The Lao Veterans marched in impressive numbers - older men, all, they made me cry. Their white counterparts rode in convertibles and polished vintage autos - a sad disparity, but guess which group was more moving?
A group of caballeros rode high-stepping stallions to the accompaniment of mariachi music. The NAACP made an appearance with a couple of families carrying a banner.
The drum major of the high school band was a young man with a distinctly Southeast Asian appearance, likely Hmong. Many people his age came to our region as refugees when they were only babies or toddlers, or perhaps their parents came here shortly before they were born.
The university where I work made a big splash with athletes in uniform for the first time, cheerleaders, and a dance troupe. A couple of churches participated - including ours, with the Cub Scout presence. The Girl Scouts had a huge crowd of mothers and daughters marching together, reminding my husband when he shouted "We love your cookies!" that he could stock up again in January. PFLAG's group was small - and poignant, right now, in our red town in a blue state.
A lone Hispanic Navy veteran who appeared to be in his 80s waved an American flag all the way down the parade route. I cried again. How many times, during his service, do you imagine he was called some racial epithet? I know it's just my imagination. But it makes sense to see him as someone who has ridden the roller coaster of freedom his whole life - because we do indeed have ups and downs - and never given up.
In my country, all these people live side by side. We dissent and disagree and struggle, but we unite under the common dream that living in peace with those who are different from us is not only possible, but enriching and wonderful. That is freedom worth fighting for.