A Parade to Remember

"... We absolutely insist on enjoying life" (p. 132, Alcoholics Anonymous). Here's the forum for fun and frivolity. Enjoy!
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A Parade to Remember

Post by martin08 » Sun Jul 06, 2008 3:31 pm

I loaded the four-wheeler onto the trailer, strapped it down, and headed out to my Dad's to drop it off after some servicing. My wife and I had talked earlier in the day about attending the 4th of July parade, but through errands, other obligations and time constraints, we just never got it together before the 10am start.

I started back to go through town at 9:45am. Too late. The Intervale Road that connects to Main Street already had a police cruiser blocking both lanes. OK, I did a u-turn and took an alternate route to circumvent downtown and the certain congenstion of floats, fire engines and flags. Up Maple Street, cross over High Street, detour through Granite Heights and pick up Middle Street on the other side of town - my route was planned and besides, there's a parade every year, right?

But when I stopped to cross High Street, the sight of a man using two canes caught my eye. His military cap was precariously perched as his head bent forward with each labored step. No way was he going to shuffle a half mile in the next ten minutes to make that parade. So I put my directional on, made a left toward downtown and pulled my loaded truck and trailer up beside him. "Jump in", I said. And the smile that flashed back was almost reward enough for the inconvenience of the traffic jam I knew lay ahead for us. But there was more.

His name was Clayton Keene, eighty-seven years young. Patriot. He served in the Army Air Corps, European theater from 1942 to 1945. We rolled our rig up to the corner of High and South Streets, just as another police cruiser rounded the corner and blocked off our pursuit for downtown. At first, I thought we would have to walk, but right behind the cruiser we saw Old Glory and the rest of the color guard - the head of the parade - rounding the corner as well. We had a front row seat!

As the Veterans passed in their open air Jeeps, full uniforms with medals and stripes, Clayton opened up. "I rode in one of those on VE day, you know, sonny. And it wasn't all as sweet as this," he pointed a wavering finger through the windshield at the passing vehicles.

"General Eisenhower's offices were on our base. And we were always the last ones to hear any world news. But that day we were in town and we saw his car pass through with a great big sign, saying 'Surrender of the German Army Signed Today'. So we all rushed to get back to base. I had a Renault and my buddies packed the Jeep, just like you see here. We must have been in a hurry, 'cause around a sharp corner, we flipped 'em both. Laugh, yeah we laughed. Now that was sweet, sonny, that was sweet."

As he brought a tissue from his shirt pocket to the tear on his cheek, I choked back some in absolute awe of the love that Clayton has now and the sacrafice he made so many years ago in the honor of the United States of America. My freedom comes from the toils of the US Armed Forces, and I had the blessing yesterday to meet one of the remaining few from the Greatest Generation.

I phoned my wife. "I'm at the parade after all...." and I told her this story.

None of this could or would have happened five years ago. Sobriety comes in many forms, that day it was just "Sweet".

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