National Memorial Day Parade 201425th May 2014 was a special day for me, not only was it my birthday but I enjoyed the privilege of attending a dinner given by the American Veterans’ Centre in honor and advance of the ninth annual National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C the next day. Guests included former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Emmy Award winning TV anchor, Rita Cosby, both great supporters of the American Veterans’ Centre. It was an honour to be there with them and others in high anticipation for the Parade the next day.
It’s fair to say that the Parade itself exceeded all my highest expectations. The day dawned bright and clear and thousands of patriotic Americans lined Constitution Avenue in Washington DC to celebrate the nation’s military heroes from the sons and daughters of the American Revolution right through to recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Parade was a majesty of red white and blue – with every flag and ensigns of different regiments and divisions of glory past flying in the breeze as well as a sea of balloons and Stars and Stripes everywhere.
Veterans units from all fifty states were represented as was the range of U.S. military forces with naval, airborne and ground forces atop the floats. Particularly memorable for me were the US Submarine veterans (Columbus Base) float with a service man accompanying an extraordinary scarlet and black missile and a float featuring a full scale working US military helicopter. It was also extraordinarily moving to see older veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars honored on a beautifully elaborate float decorated in the Stars and the Stripes.
Animals were also honored with many servicemen marching with their devoted dogs and bomb sniffers.
There was even a stunning display of mounted cavalry on beautiful Palomino horses, their golden coats glistening in the sunshine.
The atmosphere was incredible with a joyous concelbration of patriotism full of love and respect and honor for our America’s heroes, particularly fallen and wounded.
As the parade proceeded, servicemen and women past and present saluted each other as comrades whilst crowds cheered and applauded the brave men and women passing by. It was fantastic to see so many families there, especially the numbers of children, and to think how a whole new generation were being inspired by the courage of these veterans. The younger generation was also represented by a Boy Scout Troop marching in the Parade to honour veterans, dressed in their distinctive caps and khaki uniform and marching in time with the national flag, they made for a fantastic sight.
A Norman Rockwell sight come alive.
The Parade was not just a feast for the eyes but for the ears, the clamor and warmth of embrace of appreciative crowds was relentless; with stirring military bands bringing their brass and percussion brilliance to the proceedings. Singing God Bless America along with a crowd of thousands as we honored veterans who had been willing to sacrifice everything for their country, was an experience that brought tears to my eyes and one which I will never forget. Just as moving was the minute’s pause at the National Moment of Remembrance as, in unity, we stopped to remember those who have given their lives for their country and the cause of freedom.
Former Miss America, Kirsten Haglund, was Master of Ceremonies and, right from the midst of the parade, she was commentator on the action for tv audiences as well as those thousands present. As Fox lady she be talking us through the amazing stream of floats which included armoured vehicles and f with participants dressed in historical costume – including the especially colourful Colonial Military March in their blue coats, white breeches and black three cornered hats – to remind us of veterans of battles from past centuries. Meanwhile, from the media booth Rita Cosby commentated for the 1.5 million Americans watching the parade on live television as well as the servicemen and women watching live from all over the world on the Pentagon Channel.
The American Veterans’ Centre could not have arranged a more fitting tribute to veterans past and present. I, and countless others, are full of gratitude for those – many of them volunteers and veterans – who poured their time and efforts into putting together such a wonderful day. The AVC’s aim is to serve those who have so bravely served their country by “guarding their legacy [and] honoring their sacrifice” and the Memorial Day Parade did both in remarkable and unforgettable ways. A chance to explore D.C. afterwards with its historic buildings and amazing cultural complex gave me a great love for the city and I am counting the days until 25th May and this year’s Memorial Day Parade.