This past Memorial Day weekend I joined my brother and his family for a short road trip to a bluegrass festival & parade held in a little Northeast GA town about 90 minutes away from our home. As a lifelong bluegrass fan and native Georgian, I genuinely looked forward to the event.
The parade kicked off just before noon. It started appropriately with a local singer, poised and freshly polished for belting out a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem. When the sound system rang the first notes of "Dixie" and it was sung BEFORE the The Star Spangled Banner, even as a native Southerner I was more than a little taken aback.
The parade's MC was a local radio personality who had obviously studied the speech patterns, homespun sense of humor & stage presence of that late, great Mississippian, Jerry Clower. The guy did a fabulous job. He named the make, model, and year of each antique car that passed, and identified each of the three floats manned by uniformed re-enactors of The War Between The States, occupants zealously waving huge banners sporting the Stars & Bars of the long-defunct Confederacy.
After two sets of 21-musket salutes by ragtag groups of Rebel re-enactors, I was ready for the VFW, the American Legionnaires, or at least for a high school marching band to strut by, beating their drums to something remotely patriotic. Heck, I would've settled for a short, bald guy in platform shoes singing "God Bless the USA". Alas, it was not to be. Out of nearly 90 minutes of parading participants, we never saw a single veteran's group, National Guard squad, or even a JROTC color guard. The Memorial Day parade was devoid of any memory of any veteran except those from the Confederate States of America.
I'm a firm believer in preserving our Southern heritage. I draw the line at doing so to the detriment of our national heritage to the point of completely removing from Memorial Day any public memory of the military veterans whose blood and courage has continued to preserve our national freedom for more than two and a half centuries.
Later that same day, my confusion had grown to something just short of outrage. I only achieved peace by realizing the following: It is only by virtue of the sweat, blood, and courage of those volunteer US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are protecting and defending all of us at this very moment that the shortsighted and overly-provincial folks of that little town are able to celebrate a "veteran-free" Memorial Day.
For me, that knowledge does not make the nature of that parade either correct or acceptable, but it puts the situation in a palatable perspective.