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Veterans Day Parade 2008

 

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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Next publication:
A MONTH ON A BARRIER ISLAND  Poems by Steven Lewis and Photographs by Tom Nolan Due: Fall 2009

   

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8-3-09

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