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Taking a Stand for Respect

The Memorial Day Parade in my town was not flashy, the crowd was not crushing, and the speeches not self-aggrandizing. The parade was like a pot of mixed-berry jam: Civil-War soldiers in blue; women in hooped skirts; an American-Legion float skirted in red, white, and blue; Scout troops marching in loose formation; police marching in perfect formation; a WW II tank rumbling; flutists playing; and babies gurgling. The day’s events reeked of small-town charm and offered myriad opportunities for adults to model respect.

The parade made strategic stops to allow for prayers, and brief speeches honoring past and current veterans. A WW II fighter pilot addressed the crowd honoring a fallen comrade. After he spoke, this eighty-something stood, leaning lightly on the back of an empty folding chair, as the names of the veterans we lost over the past year were read, and the National Anthem sounded.

Through the National Anthem people saluted; others held a hand over their heart, and some simply stood straight. The Boy Scouts, hats removed, stood; one distracted Scout twirled his hat; a troop leader gently pushed the boy’s arm down, a silent lesson in respect. A group of elementary-age girls, sitting on a blanket chatted; they didn’t understand the significance of the moment, and the adults with them lost a valuable teaching opportunity. Along with some children, a few adults sat on the curb, setting a fine example of obliviousness, or, perhaps, ignorance.

Memorial Day is an annual opportunity for the town to honor those who protect us, and the families who take on the attendant sacrifices and losses. Opinions on the wars, health-care reform, or the choice of state flower don’t matter; this day is about displaying respect and self-respect and, in the process, utilizing important teachable moments.

MetroWest Daily News
June 6, 2010