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Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I took this on Memorial Day, 2014
All across America, small towns  commemorate Memorial Day in a way that’s impossible in the big cities.  It’s a time when people fly flags at their homes and line the parade routes in their towns to see the respectful procession of veterans and others remind us that freedom does not come without cost.

In my town of Warwick, NY, the procession begins at 11 AM, proceeds down Main Street past people holding flags or just paper cups of mid-morning coffee.  Some bring folding chairs, others sit on the curb, and others stand.  But as the veterans go by, most stand, and the spring air is filled with applause.  Some call out “Thank You” from the curb, and the veterans smile or salute or in some way say, “You’re Welcome.”  I remember when most of the veterans walked the parade route.  These days they are driven.  Time passes.  They are older. They are fewer.  

Following the veterans are some very important people who continue to serve our community: the members of the Volunteer Ambulance Corps who are always there with their time and expertise, the members of the Volunteer Fire Departments who risk their lives whenever they respond to emergencies.  Many of these people are veterans or active military, and as the Fire Departments marched this year, two members were in uniform.  They volunteered to serve their country, and they continue to serve their community.

The Warwick High School Band marches as do the Girl Scouts, from Daisys to Seniors, and the Boy Scouts march as well.  The Knights of Columbus are represented, and often other community organizations that volunteer to make all our lives a little better through their good works.  This is respect of the day and the reason for the day.

The parade moves past Main Street and up Oakland Avenue past the Lazear-Smith & Vander Plaat Memorial Home where the front lawn holds hundreds of American flags.  Past the bank, the bed and breakfasts, the beautiful large Victorian homes along the Avenue, the Dautaj restaurant, and the Warwick Valley Country Club to the Warwick Cemetery where services are held.  Then down Rt. 17A to St. Stephens Cemetery, and then back to the American Legion Hall and the Memorials erected there at the entrance to Memorial Park.

I am particularly sentimental about this Memorial Day because it is our last one in Warwick before we move.  Times have changed over the years.  Caroline Lesando, the Gold Star mother who lost her boy in Vietnam, no longer lives in Warwick.  Her courage, year after year, to participate in this parade was always a heart-breaking, unimaginable moment to me.  When, in the Warwick Cemetery, I hear the names of several young people who have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, I cringe.  But I also remember my children marching with the band, my marching with my Girl Scout troop with my daughter, my son marching with the Boy Scouts, and I can see in my memory my mother and father sitting and waiting for the parade to begin.

At 3 PM I paused for a minute and thought about all the men and women lost in battle over the course of our history.  Each and every one of them is a hero to me, and I owe each and every one a debt of gratitude for allowing me to live in a free society unlike any that has existed in the history of mankind.  They have allowed me to be proud to be an American.

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