Reflections on Veteran’s Day, 2011
| Phoenix Veterans Day Parade - 11/11/11. |
Although it got off to a shaky start (notice the misspelling, twice, of the word 'Hero's' on the banner), the parade immediately recovered its dignity and continued from there with great aplomb.
I’m not sure I could tell you the last time I went to a big
parade, but I’m sure it’s been ten years at least, maybe fifteen. Parades are not really my thing, for two primary
reasons. For one thing, I don’t like
crowds. I don’t know what it is, but
parades just seem to attract them. Whenever
I’m in a crowd, I quickly get very uptight and anxious. It’s nothing personal against the rest of
humanity; it’s just that so many things can go wrong when you have to stand
next to folks you don’t know for longer than a standard elevator ride or
forty-two seconds, whichever comes first.
Whenever I find myself in that kind of situation, I focus on all the mishaps
that could occur, ranging from personal embarrassment to outright calamity, and
then spend whatever time remains combining them in imaginative and unusual ways.
The other reason is that parades are usually connected to a
holiday, and I have always looked at holidays as precious and fleeting gifts of
freedom from the rat race. Thus, I tend
to jealously guard these days much the way a dragon guards its treasure, specifically
a dragon that’s down to its last few pieces of gold because some thief has
absconded with the rest. Holidays,
especially the paid ones, engender a feeling similar to the one you get when
the tax refund finally shows up in your bank account: even though you knew it
was coming, you can’t help but get a little giddy anyway. Putting myself in a situation where I would
feel uncomfortable, such as a parade, for instance, has always struck me as an
extremely non-giddy way to spend a holiday.
However, things have changed drastically for me this
year. I’m a newly-minted freelance
writer, which means I’m out of the rat race, because let’s face it, even rats
don’t race for free, like I happen to be doing now. One of the positive side effects, however, has
been that I no longer feel a need to protect every spare moment that comes my
way as though it were the last remaining seat in a death-match version of musical
So, on November 11th, 2011, we took the
plunge. We gathered up the kids, and
went downtown to watch the VA Veterans Day Parade. Many people don’t realize this, but Phoenix’s Veterans Day parade
is one of the largest in the country. I
know we were surprised by how big a parade it actually is. Looking at the program, handed out by scurrying
troops of freshly-scrubbed Scouts before the start, we saw that there were a
total of 49 groups participating. We
were duly impressed by that, until our daughter alerted us to the fact that
there were another two pages of entrants, bringing the total to 105.
|The parade was preceded by a B-25(?) bomber|
making several passes overhead.
The parade itself ran a very solid two hours. Before we left the house, I heard the local
news estimate thirty to forty thousand spectators would attend this year’s event. Two hours in, I thought that was the number
of people in the parade. It’s a long parade, and it feels even longer
when you spend the majority of the time preventing a frisky two-year-old from
running into the tangle of marching legs, especially when the pretty horseys and the friendly doggies are passing by.
Fortunately for us, my daughter was eventually overwhelmed by all the excitement
and fell asleep. For the last half-hour,
my wife and I alternated holding her slag-like body in our arms while doing our
best to continue waving and clapping and cheering.
The VA Veterans parade had all the things that make parades
the joyous and nerve-wracking (maybe that’s just me) experiences they are:
bands, floats, giant balloons, dignitaries, celebrities, great old restored
cars like Ford Model T’s and convertible Caddies, big trucks and military
vehicles of all shapes and sizes, really loud motorcycles, music, flags, baton
twirlers, and, of course, crowds.