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A glorious Fourth of July parade

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POSTED July 4, 2014 1:17 a.m.

I love a parade. I love marching. 

I loved marching in parades and even in Army drills.

I fell in love with parades as a child watching a newsreel of U.S. troops marching down Broadway in a 1946 victory parade. Pride and precision.

Later, I would dream of being with those troops. But I also dreamed of being with Roman legions and their in-line battle formations, sometimes returning to Rome after a victorious campaign, drums marking the beat as we marched down the Apian Way.

I marched with Alexander after his defeat of Darius and the Persians. I marched with Sherman into Atlanta and with Lee at Appatomax.

But mostly, formation marching lasted until the advent of cannons and machine guns tore into such maneuvers. But formations with straggled or irregular lines were said to fare much worse.

One of my greatest marching moments was in a July 4 parade in the Army.

The Army looked to save a few dollars by combining its July 4 celebration with a retirement parade for two colonels and a lieutenant colonel. My company was one of four, about 1,000 men, called to participate.

I spit shined (spit and wax polish) my boots to a high gloss, took out new laces, used “Brasso” on my belt buckle until it sparkled and made certain my uniform was wrinkle free. My rifle could pass anyone’s inspection.

Lining up, we were arranged by height, tallest to shortest. I made the front row, directly behind flag bearers. A second lieutenant checked alignment row by row. “You idiot in the second row. Get your ass into line.”

 From the first company we heard the cry, “Batt-al-ion,” repeated down the line until it reached us.

“Pre-paa-ruh to march” and down the line.

Ready! March. And as one we took off on a left foot. “Left. Right. Left. Left. Hut, one, two, three, four!” A half mile to the parade ground.

The American flags flying, troops were moving, feet were stomping and my heart pounding with joy. 

We marched to the reviewing stand with the military brass surrounded by flags. As we passed, we heard the order, “Eyes right,” and in wonderful unison, we snapped our heads to the right. The retiring officers were two colonels who never made general and a lieutenant colonel who never made full colonel. 

But, having given most of their adult lives in service to their country, they deserved a farewell parade, at the very least.

At parade rest, we listened to fond farewells as a master sergeant with a nice baritone voice sang the national anthem. The moment brought tears to my eyes. 

Then it was over and other commands . . .present arms, shoulder arms, left face. March.

 

Then, it began to rain. There was no help for it. No shelter within hundreds of yards. We couldn’t break ranks. We had to take it, continue marching and get soaked. The flags were soaked, too.

We sloshed our way across the field and quick-timed back to base. More than any other pain, my beautifully shined shoes were a mess. A terrible end to my beautiful parade.

Still, I look back on that day many years ago and I shall never forget how my heart was filled with such pride.

And whenever I see a parade and the flags held high, they serve as a reminder of that glorious July 4 and my marching. 


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