I can't believe that I've never before gone to the Fourth of July parade (local). It was one of the most wonderful experiences ever, and it was packed. The entire parade route was lined with several rows of chairs, blankets and strollers -- and there were even two rows of chairs set up specifically for veterans, who arrived via tour bus.
The parade began with a flyover courtesy of a B-25, which according to some flew up from Ft. Indiantown Gap. It circled the route several times, and it was absolutely inspiring. I can't imagine the pride and safety they would have instilled flying overhead in formation, or the sheer terror they would have instilled in their enemies. It gave me goosebumps.
Then, the flags were marched past, and I was so happy to see that almost everyone rose. They were followed by an Army band and then a lot of soldiers (I realize how general that sounds, but I have no idea how to measure them). Either way, I started crying a mix of I'm-so-proud-of-this-country and personal tears. Everyone applauded them. It's good to know that, even if patriotism is a value largely absent in a great deal of the media and seemingly many college campuses, it's highly regarded in my hometown community.
Aside from the flyover and the troops, one of my favorite parts of the parade was the line of reenactors embodying the Revolutionary, 1812, Civil and World Wars. They were followed by uniformed veterans representing every branch of the armed services.
It was interesting to see the veterans. Most of them were from the Greatest Generation (though I often wonder why today's men and women in uniform aren't also the Greatest Generation). Some of them were from the current war. All of them were thanked by the people they served. I wondered what they thought, what it was like for the WWII vets who arrived home to ticker tape parades and the grateful thanks of a nation to be applauded and thanked today, for the Korean veterans who are so often seemingly forgotten, for the Vietnam vets who couldn't wear their uniforms off-base and who are now greeted with smiles and thank-yous.
I'm so glad that I went. The patriotism and unity for once felt almost tangible; it was very thrilling. I love this country and I'm so grateful for the men and women who serve her.