In years gone by, Armed Forces Day was a really big deal. Communities around the country held parades, usually on Saturday morning, and townspeople planning on shopping downtown timed their trips to first attend the parade and then shop. Military units were invited to participate, local bands showed up dressed to the hilt and even the police and fire departments entered marching units in dress uniforms. The reviewing stand for judging performance was decked out in red, white and blue bunting rivaling a Fourth of July parade and many in the crowd wore red, white and blue while sporting American flags. Patriotic pride clearly filled the air.
I had the good fortune as a boy to personally participate in this wonderful parade of support for our military. The first time, as a Cub Scout, I remember making sure my mom did a special pressing of my uniform as I wanted it to be perfect. I stood tall and proud as our group, normally mischievous and active, stood at silent attention waiting to begin our march. I think it was right then when I knew I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up.
Later, in the first year of high school before I became active in sports, I marched as a member of the marching band. In our blue and gold uniforms with gleaming instruments, we all felt a chill go down our back as we stepped out on the avenue at the beginning of the parade route and saw the huge throngs of people watching our every step. When we broke out into a John Philip Sousa march the crowd cheered and we played as well and as loud as we ever performed. At the end of the long parade, we were hot and tired but happy and we felt extremely proud to be Americans and to have our military to keep us free.
Aside from some American Legion functions and events in heavily military family communities, little notice of it is made these days. It probably won’t even be mentioned on the news, and it’s sad to note that since the anti-war movement became so outspoken during the Vietnam conflict, those who give dearly of themselves, even up to and including death for their American brothers and sisters, fail to be recognized on this occasion. I’m afraid it’s just a sad sign of the times and as fewer and fewer young Americans experience the privilege of serving in uniform it becomes easy to forget the cause which many no longer fully understand or appreciate.
We’re going to have another chance soon to celebrate and honor our military, but this next opportunity is for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country and their countrymen. Memorial Day is right around the corner and while more people recognize than any other event related to the military, it is really sad that only after death do we as a nation seem to take real notice of all that our brave fighting men and women do.
So, on this Armed Forces Day I ask that each of you take a moment and say thanks to all of our fellow citizens for taking the time and sacrificing a portion of their lives so that we might remain free. God bless them and God bless the United States of America. May Old Glory fly proudly and forever over a land that remains free.