I remember marching in a Memorial Day parade in 1966. I was a Cub Scout. They probably started with a band and fire truck. There would have be antique cars decorated with bunting. Convertibles with the Gold Star Mothers riding along. The VFW would march with rifles. There was a small group of WWI vets that always marched together. Then the Boy Scouts and Cubs. The Girl Scouts and Brownies.
And if you weren't marching, you were on the curb or sidewalk watching. The whole procession came out of the high school parking lot and went down the main street until it turned left just before the river. The parade turned there because that took you to the main cemetery. The podium was set up and the various speakers took their turns before the veteran's graves. You knew which ones were the veterans because the stones were decorated with a flag.
I don't remember anything that was said. Just that it was solemn. I went looking. You can watch 5000 home movies of 1950s and 1960s Memorial Day Parades if you are so inclined. I picked one. Not because it seemed special, but because it seemed typical. This is what towns big and small used to do on Memorial Day.
It's a minute long. The video quality is poor. There is no sound. It looks like America.
Our dads and uncles were the guys that fought in WWII. Our grandfathers in WWI. They knew the guys with the flags on their headstones from high school and church. America was what all these men had fought for and Memorial Day was for the ones that hadn't made it home.
And there were picnics. Burgers and dogs, baked beans and chips, cold soda and beer. The smell of charcoal. Memorial Day was a celebration, too. A time to remember back at what it cost and a time to appreciate the day, the freedom, the life and the people we share it with.
Saving Private Ryan is a great movie. It would be a good movie without this scene, but this scene is what elevates it to greatness. It is the question that we should all ask ourselves. Is the life we are living worth the cost that was paid? I, too, hope that in their eyes it is.