As a child, we celebrated Memorial Day in much the same way we recognized other summer holidays — by decorating our bikes and staging a parade.
I guess anyone from that generation will recall the importance of bicycles in our daily existence. A pile of bicycles hastily parked beside a playground was a regular sight in our neighborhood.
Our bikes became a mystical vehicle that could take us anywhere. If you were playing Cowboys and Indians, the horse below us had two wheels and spokes. On other occasions, the bikes became ships on open water preparing to do battle.
And when Memorial Day rolled around, these same bikes became our floats for a neighborhood organized parade. It would be the finale in a day of cookouts, badminton games and runs though the sprinkler.
Any backyard would do serving as a prep area, filled with colorful streamers and homemade signs hung from wagons that would be pulled by the little ones who hadn’t crossed the line to two-wheelers.
We unwound rolls of red, white and blue crepe paper, and entwined it meticulously in the spokes of our wheels.
A clothespin and playing card strategically attached to a fender support provided the roar of a real engine.
We placed colorful streamers in the ends of our handlebars, and attached pinwheels to our forks.
In a simple truth that becomes apparent to all as years pass, the real fun of the parade was the preparation. The rewards of sharing a common goal with friends, working together and seeing a project through from start to finish are what I remember most about those days.
The parade was somewhat anticlimactic, and, by the next day, the bikes had returned to their utilitarian origins, complete with torn seats and rusty fenders.
As we prepare to honor those who served on this Memorial Day, an absence of parades is just one of the things that will seem decidedly different from past years.
The coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on aging veterans, and any consideration of large gatherings for this high-risk group was quickly deemed not possible.
But, even in this unusual year of unprecedented challenges, the meaning of Memorial Day remains, and the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their country are no less appreciated and honored.
Perhaps this crisis intensifies our focus and appreciation of those unselfish enough to risk life and limb on unknown soil to preserve our way of life.
This virus has caused our nation unimaginable harm and forced us to re-examine things we once took for granted. Making sacrifices has become a daily routine as we struggle to return to some time of normalcy.
But, it does not affect our ability to remember and honor those who made sacrifice a way of life in defense of their nation.
Do not allow our compassion and respect for our national heroes to be quarantined. We should remember that never have so few sacrificed so much for so many, and unforeseen circumstances shouldn’t dampen our commitment to their memory.
So, even minus the parades and memorial services, all of us can take a moment to honor men and women who placed service above personal safety and left their blood on foreign soils across the globe.
And, honestly, the message of Memorial Day is expressed in many ways. Marching bands with fancy floats and marching soldiers are certainly appropriate methods to show our appreciation, and we’ll await their return when better days return.
But, thinking back, that dog riding in a wagon decorated with an American flag pulled by a kid with a homemade patriotic hat delivered the same message.
“Thank You” to those who served and sacrificed.