How could a Memorial Day parade and service be carried off any better than last Monday’s in downtown West Bend?
It was a sunny, breezy day, perfect to remember and model ourselves after local heroes, to say thanks to our fallen soldiers, sailors, flyers, marines and coast guard men and women. They gave us the gift of liberty and democracy for generations after they gave their lives in high cause.
The parade was a small American town at its best. The West Bend High School Band was in fine form. So was the drum and bugle corps and the local dancing team. The Corvette and motorcycle drivers put on a show. The speakers, including former Police Chief Ken Mueller as the keynote, delivered insightful messages.
The playing of taps and three-shot rifle salute caught the gravity of the day.
A nice crowd of several hundred American citizens, with lots of kids, were present to applaud and pay their respects. The six local veteran groups organized the ceremonies with military precision.
I wondered, though, what our long-absent heroes would say to us if they could. Their spirit was there, for certain. Their names are carved in the granite monuments on the plaza for all to see. I think we know what they would say:
- We gave our lives to you and your community so you could pay it forward. Contribute (Mueller’s message) to the ends of your lives with the talents and energies you were given.
- We are a diverse cadre of warriors who came to depend on each other, move forward in unity, even when you disagree over lesser issues than life and death.
- Treasure your families and protect them. They are who we fought for. We miss them terribly.
- Help to protect other democracies from the autocratic, evil killers, like the Russian criminals in Ukraine.
- Stay out of foreign wars, unless sending U.S. troops is absolutely essential to American security.
- Maintain a powerful military and alliances that are a force for peace. Don’t tread on us or our peaceful allies.
- Be tough, but no tougher than we have to be.
Maybe I’m putting some of those words in the mouths of the fallen, but I’m unapologetic.
I missed the Korean Conflict (too young) and Vietnam (too old), but I served and think I’m not far off on what their collective message would be on Memorial Day.