Today we took the kids downtown for a parade to celebrate our military. After the poor turnout at the parade last November for Veteran’s Day, I was apprehensive about the kind of crowd we might expect. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when we had to park three blocks away from the parade route and fight large crowds to even find a spot where the kids could see what was going on.
More than once during the parade I felt grateful to have my camera as a buffer between myself and the veterans and their families as they marched by. More than once I had to check and then recheck the focus of my camera against the failing focus of my own eyes.
Shouts of “Thank you!” and “We love you!” echoed down the street as float after float passed by. After the Vietnam Veterans passed, an Air Force Veteran nearby said what I had been thinking: “You know, this might be the first ‘Welcome Home’ for them too.”
Every event for our military leaves me feeling torn – I am grateful for the opportunity to teach my children to show their appreciation for those who serve. But at the same time I am painfully aware of how little we offer them in return for their service. Those Vietnam Veterans especially deserved more than a parade, and they deserved it a long time ago.
All the same, I am proud of St. Louis for being the first city to stand up and offer those who have served in more recent years the respect and honor that they have earned. May it be only the first of many such events.