26 May 2015


by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 26 May 2015

"If you're not in the parade, you watch the parade. That's life." Mike Ditka

Tens of thousands lined Washington D.C.'s Constitution Avenue for Monday afternoon's National Memorial Day Parade. 

What a tribute! 

What a grand, fitting spectacle honoring and celebrating those who fought and died to preserve freedom. 

Our colors - red, white, and blue - were on display. 

A snapshot of the tens of thousands who lined the streets

Marines marched!

Marines on parade - none march better.

Sailors marched!

Navy Reserve - 100 years.

Soldiers, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen, too, marched!

But the day's 
honorees absent. Rest they do in national cemeteries and small graveyards coast to coast and about the globe - though present in spirit surely. 

Proxies - veterans aplenty, some battlefield survivors - on hand. 

The parade lineup traced America's major wars, beginning with the American Revolution. World War II veterans served as Grand Marshals. Tuskegee Airmen and Montford Point Marines present. And so many and so much more. 

A couple of actors with strong ties and sense of duty to our military were on hand - Mr. Gary Sinise and Mr. Joe Mantegna. Patriots. 

 Gary Sinise

 Joe Mantegna and Colonel Ed Shames, U. S. Army (Ret)

Privileged my wife and I were to be seated in the reviewing stand at the corner of Constitution and 7th - the parade's beginning.

Seats were marked by name. Finding our seats I recognized the name on the empty seat to my port but could not recall where I'd seen it nor put a face with the name. The next seat was marked "Laura Ingraham" - yes, that Laura Ingraham. 

About half hour before the parade began the gentleman seated beside me arrived. We introduced ourselves. I mentioned who was to be seated to his port. He saw the name and said, "I was on her radio program a few days ago. I've been on her show several times. I'll have to hide my name and surprise her - we've only talked on the phone - never met in person." And on we chatted until an escort came for him. He promised to return. 

And then there was the parade! 

Two hours - including pauses for commercial breaks (never had I attended a televised parade) and the moment of national silence at 1500 - the parade's midpoint. Complete silence for one minute - across the country - followed by a bugler playing Taps and a soldier filling the air with Amazing Grace. Emotional. 

And as colors passed, and frequently they did - leading nearly every marching and rolling unit - up those in the reviewing stand stood in respect; the uniformed saluting and most others placing right hand over heart. 

Some battlefield heroes received like respect. 

Our seat mate returned. 

He had been in the parade.

We watched the parade. 

And we picked back up our conversation. 

He handed me his card and mentioned a new book just out. I promised to buy and read it. 

The parade ended.

Quickly the crowd was dispersing.

We bid farewell and the gentleman asked that he hear from me. I assured him he would. 

My wife and I walked to the Metro to head home and talked about our remarkable afternoon. 

Ofttimes the unexpected happening, once over, seems surreal. So was today. 

What a parade! 

With honors and gratitude to those who sacrificed life so others may live - freely. 


Post Script

The gentleman: Colonel Ed Shames, U.S. Army (Ret) - Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. World War II combat action: Operation Market Garden; Operation Overlord; Battle of the Bulge. Three Purple Hearts. Band of Brothers. He turns 93 next month. 

He was a Grand Marshal in the parade (as pictured above riding with Mr. Joe Mantegna). 

His book just out last week, written by Ian Gardner: Airborne: The Combat Story of Ed Shames of Easy Company. Bought it last night and started reading - hooked in the opening pages. Recommend. 

Author chatting with Colonel Ed Shames before the parade.

A Sailor with Colonel Ed Shames before the parade.

Laura Ingraham did not make it to her seat. Too bad. It'd been nice for her and Colonel Shames to meet.

Author's Endnotes:

1. Mr. James C. Roberts, President, American Veterans Center - and with the help of many - organized one helluva a show. Fortunate to meet him just prior to the parade. 

2. Conspicuously absent in the reviewing stand was any civilian leadership representing the current administration. Cannot fathom an alibi. 

No comments: