Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact


Marching on Memorial Day in Rockville

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.

6 thoughts on “Memorial Day

  1. Hi again, Marc! Thanks for expounding on this. It’s true that I don’t have an American flag to hang on my porch. My parents always did that. I just haven’t felt it was necessary to do that to show that I love and support my country. I still tear up at the Star Spangled Banner, though. :/ I think it’s a problem when only one set of ideas (as associated with one political party) is thought of as patriotic, though. Would more national dialogue about what it means to be a patriotic and what it means to embrace and defend ” liberty and justice for all” help? Or are we so polarized that attempts at such dialogue is just a waste of time? These are the kinds of questions that gnaw at me these days. I may be wrong, but my sense is that Republicans tend to take the position that there is only one right answer to every question, only one right way to think, act, etc. whereas I strongly believe that one of our core values as a country is tolerance, even celebration, of diversity.


  2. Hi Marc. I enjoy your posts and agree with much of what you said here. I am just wondering if the line “Patriotism is alive and well, even in the strongly Democratic suburbs of your nation’s capital.” was meant as sarcasm. I am not quite sure how to interpret it. I am a Democrat and consider myself highly patriotic. I also have many family members who have served and fought for this country. I don’t necessarily display American flags everywhere, (if that is the mark of patriotism) but I do engage in civic life and take that duty very seriously. Even when I am not happy with what specific Americans or American institutions are doing, (and I am glad I have the freedom to say so) I consider myself a patriot.


    1. Marc Gunther says:

      Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t being sarcastic. It’s my sense that Democrats and others on the left are uncomfortable with patriotism, or at least uncomfortable about expressing it by, for example, flying an American flag on Memorial Day or July 4. I understand that–I’m a product of the 60s, strongly opposed the Vietnam War, and still would–but as I have grown older I’ve come to appreciate the many things that America gets right, even in this moment of Trump. That’s why so many people from around the world want to come to the US. I only wish we would allow more of them in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chuck Palmer says:

    Great reminder on Memorial Day. My great uncle died in WW I when his ambulance was hit by artillery and is buried in France.


  4. Jim Ulvog says:

    Read what you want, worship (or don’t) as you wish, and write what you feel like. Freedom is good. Very good.


  5. Betsy Zeidman says:

    Nice piece Marc!

    Sent from my iPhone



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