I always cry at parades. I’m not sure what it is about them, but I always get choked up. If you’ve ever wondered why I have my sun glasses on during these events regardless of the weather, now you know. I’m probably bawling my eyes out.
Today’s Veterans Day parade and ceremony in Norwich was no exception, except perhaps that it was more touching than most.
Veterans and their families started gathering at the East Side Park well before 11 a.m. Despite the chill in the air, they stood with flags in hands and waited for the slow, steady procession to make its way down East Main Street.
The American Legion Riders from Norwich’s Warren Eaton Post were the advance guard. They drove through once, flags snapping, and then circled back around.
Lines of veterans marched to the mournful sound of a lone piper, followed by scouting groups and the Norwich High School Purple Tornado Marching Band. The band performed America the Beautiful, which once again brought tears to my eyes.
Color guards from local veterans organizations as well as the Norwich City Police Department arranged themselves around the park. Attention was divided between the flagpole and the bandstand, where Norwich High School’s Madrigal Singers waited to perform the National Anthem.
The ceremony itself began precisely at 11 a.m., marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and commemorating the armistice which ended the First World War.
Following a few words from Terry Bresina and a moving invocation by a chaplain from Sidney, the Madrigal Singers gave one of the most beautiful performances of the Star Spangled Banner I have ever heard. The veterans in the crowd stood at attention while they sang.
Dr. Edward Erickson, a veteran and military historian who teaches at Norwich High School, gave the keynote address.
In a moving speech, he spoke about being sometimes embarrassed by “flag waving” and people thanking him or calling him a hero, when he felt he was doing his duty to his country.
Echoing William Shakespeare, he said he truly felt like those who had served in America’s armed forces were a “band of brothers,” and he was proud to be counted in their numbers.
He said that, like his father, he did not need a day to remember those who fought before and beside him. But rather that he remembered them every day.
His address was followed by the ceremonial laying of wreaths, a salute and the playing of taps. I found it all very humbling and very moving.
I lived for several years in Arlington, Virginia. I was but a stones throw from Arlington Cemetery and D.C.’s grand monuments.
In my time there, I witnessed countless ceremonies and honor guards. All of them inspired in me the same emotion that I felt today in our little downtown park. It is a mixture of awe, admiration and heart-felt gratitude for all those who have sacrificed to keep our great nation free.
While am sometimes overwhelmed by those emotions, I make not apology for them.
Let us never forget the dedication, commitment, effort and sacrifice of those who have served in our military. They deserve our continuous respect, recognition and appreciation.
And Dr. Erickson, please don’t be offended, but I feel I need to say it. Thank You.