This morning, I attended a Memorial Day parade in Rockville, MD, accompanied by my grandsons, Hudson and Chase, as well as my wife, daughter, son-in-law, brother, sister-in-law, two nieces and my 90-something mother, who despite her fading memory tells stories about her girlhood in England during World War II.
This was Rockville’s 73rd annual parade, and my first in a long time. We enjoyed a brass band that played all the John Philip Sousa favorites, and then cheered police officers, fire fighters, ambulance drivers, and veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Patriotism is alive and well, even in the strongly Democratic suburbs of your nation’s capital.
Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home. We saw Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. This being Montgomery Country, a mecca for immigrants, we also saw Chinese, Mexican and Bolivian dancers who, we can be confident, enjoy more political and economic freedom in this country than they would back home. Although elected officials marched, there was no sign of partisan politics anywhere. Yay!
It reminded me of something I often forget: That my father and uncle served in the US Army during World War II. Both were immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany only a few years earlier. My uncle was killed in combat in Italy.
And what does this have to do with foundations or nonprofits, you may ask? Quite a lot, really. Aside from the police officers, virtually all of those who marched were volunteers who chose to join civic groups–scouts, dance troops, pom pom dancers and the like. Without them, America would be a poorer place; this country’s diverse nonprofit sector is one of its strengths. More important, the sacrifices of veterans who fought in those wars helped to preserve the freedoms that all of us enjoy every day, usually without stopping to appreciate them, as Jim Ulvog noted in a blog post that inspired this one. This weekend, I read my New York Times and Washington Post, where there was lots of debate; joined a retreat organized by my synagogue where we worship freely; got an update on the good work done by my son-in-law, a federal prosecutor; and enjoyed a Washington Nationals game with one friend who emigrated to the US from India and another whose parents were more or less socialists. Then I wrote this, knowing I can say whatever I damn like.
None of this is to suggest that this country doesn’t have big problems, or that we should feel good about all of those wars. But it did feel good to spend a couple of hours on a Monday morning to honor those who fought and to remember, even fleetingly, those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.