Yesterday I had the good fortune to stumble across a pre-Fourth of July parade. I happened to be in Oceanside, California which is just outside the gates of Fort Pendleton...a huge Marine base. Oceanside seems like city of contrasts...there's a big dose of surfer types, another big dose of tourists and a huge chunk of Marines. An interesting mix, huh?
This parade was like so many I've been to or when I was in the marching band. Yet it had such a different feel. I think it was the presence of Marine families and Marines in uniform standing along the parade route. I stood near an Iraq war vet who had 2 hearing aides in because of an injury who was in his uniform. I haven't stood near many Marines recently and let me tell you....they are a presence...take up a lot of space both physically and psychologically.
As the parade went on and the twirlers had passed by along with the beauty queens and city council members....car loads of veterans started. This section of the parade was dedicated to Pearl Harbor Survivors, WWII vets, Korea vets, VFW members, Desert Storm vets, and Iraq and Afghanistan vets. As each group came by, the Marine captain next to me would snap to attention and yell out Semper Fi. If there was another Marine in the car, that person would yell "hoo ra" back. Other people in the crowd would applaud and yell out "thanks". This parade made me remember my Daddy. He served as an artillary spotter in the Army Air Force before there was a separate branch of the service. I know, in small chunks, how he changed from what he went through in those two wars. It was a good thing and a burden to carry...but he felt like it was his priviledge and duty to protect our country and his family. I felt that same sense of things while I was watching.
I was reduced to tears. The spirit of brotherhood that went back and forth between the captain and vets...well, it was special. The unity of people standing and thanking these vets for their service and sacrifices was humbling. I am so glad I happenstanced upon this parade. It was a blessing in my life and one I won't forget....ever.