Unless you’re out of town celebrating some relative’s wedding, or have some similar commitment, I hope you’ll drop everything on Memorial Day and show up for the annual Memorial Day Parade. Lots of communities throughout Long Island commemorate those who have given their lives in defense of freedom in our country and throughout the world with a parade and it is a great American moment when a whole community gathers together on this day.
Since moving to Levittown five years ago, I’ve been part of each parade — even when the weather threatened to wash out the parade — and have been so edified not only by the hundreds of people who march in the parade, but also by the hundreds who line the parade route along Hempstead Turnpike.
I’ve noticed that some families have “their” spot each year and they bring chairs, tents, flags, etc and settle in. Others just show up on their bicycles or stand at the sideline watching the different community groups and school bands march by. It’s great to see how several generations bond together at this commemorative parade. And then there are the unsuspecting motorists who get “stuck” in the parking lots of the various stores — they get out of their cars and stand by as the pageantry unfolds in front of them.
Those who decry that the glory days of the American life have passed us by really need to come to the parade. At first it might feel like we are transported back to a simpler time, but soon it is apparent that this parade is not an attempt to recreate an idyllic past, but it is a real moment in the present where we are united as a community. These moments are few and far between so it’s important that we are present for them.
I think Levittown’s participation in the parade is particularly robust because of the history of our village wherein the vast majority of its first in habitants were veterans from the recently concluded World War II. Everyone knew someone who had died in the war. This was also true in later wars, including in the Vietnam War. And the Memorial Day parade in no way glorified armaments or war — veterans know better than the rest of us the horrors of battles and they only hope for future peace as they remember their fallen comrades.
It’s essential to help our children and grandchildren have the same hope for peace. A careful age-appropriate conversation about the meaning of Memorial Day is important, lest they think the parade was merely about seeing the fire trucks. In addition to explaining about who we are remembering, ask them to consider in what ways they can contribute to making peace today. Of course this starts at home — peace between brothers and sisters is a great place to begin. Peace in school, at work, in the neighborhood, etc. can flourish when we all are unified in our desire for it. The Memorial Day Parade is a great inspiration toward this future.
The Memorial Day Parade in Levittown starts at 10am at Wantagh Ave and ends at the Veterans Park on Shelter Lane.