by Larry Winters
I was easing up 33rd Street towards Fifth Ave when the sound of base drums
began trembling the plate glass in the store fronts. As I approached a phalanx
of firemen in carhartt jeans with straps across their chest like bandoliers
their arms crossed at the curb side. I counted four different size carabiners
holding all their gear together.
I made my way towards an opening in the crowd to see a high school drum and
fife band marching. It was the Veterans Day Parade. Looking down at my flight
wings and the Vietnam service ribbon that I'd pinned on my jacket that morning,
I felt that for once I was in the right place at the right time. I had come
to NYC without a thought to the annual Veterans Day Parade; I was there to
speak to a group of church folks interested in helping returning vets adjust
to coming home. Having never been to a NYC parade, it seemed fitting that
I showed up by mistake 38 years after coming home from Nam. Back then I hoped
that one day I'd march in a NYC parade. That would signify that everyone
in our country finally understood what we soldiers had done. They would be
celebrating the courage and dedication that going to war took.
Today I still have some kind of World War II picture branded in my brain
like the one everyone my age and older saw in the newspapers of the sailor
who had his arms wrapped around the beautiful young nurse. The kiss had so
much passion. Every soldier aches for this moment.
That nurse was leading the 2008 Veterans Day parade now 90-year-old Edith
Shain of Los Angeles. I noticed two attractive long haired women sitting
on top of a barricade in order to see the parade better. I imagined what
it might be like if I reached up and lifted one of them into my arms and
kissed her for welcoming me home. I'd be put in jail, was the obvious answer.
One because I'm an old man whose war was long ago and the welcome home has
been long forgotten. Second no man, young or old, war or no war would make
such a move today, unless asking for trouble.
The unity that once allowed such kinds of public expression has faded into
what was marching before me, an anemic straggling line of men who needed
honor and parade watchers who'd forgot what the word really means.
Copyright © 2008 Larry Winters. All rights reserved.
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