My husband almost always participates in our local July 4th Parade, walking with the VFW group. It’s filled with floats, bands and sometimes special treats like the Wells Fargo Stage Coach and the Idaho Potato truck. This year, for the first time, he also joined his fellow members of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association to march in the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Atlanta.
The parade kicked off at 11:11 AM, and before that, I had a chance to chat with one of the parade coordinators, who told me that the number of groups participating in the parade continues to grow each year and this was one of the largest. I wondered aloud if it had anything to do with this being the anniversary year of D-Day and the start of WWI. Conversely, I noticed that the spectators were pretty sparse, and one of the AVVBA members mentioned that was usually the case. Our annual Atlanta Christmas parade often has spectators six deep, and I suspect the turnout for our Dunwoody July 4th parade tops the number that came out for this one.
I can’t speak to who else marched in the parade beyond the groups immediately surrounding the AVVBA group, as I stuck with them along the sidelines as they marched. There were a number of ROTC groups in the line-up, and right in front of the Vietnam Vets was a group representing the Atlanta Hawks, preceded by the Atholl Highlanders (USA) Pipes & Drums of Stone Mountain. If you glance at their Wikipedia entry, you’ll learn that they’re a busy group: their appearances with The Chieftains at the Fox in 2009 and in Edinburgh in 2005 for the Pipe Fest parade are just a few performances named. Hearing the Pipes & Drums warm up in the staging area and then play along the route was worth the price of admission. Well, since admission was free, perhaps it was worth the price of the MARTA fare to get there and back.
The Vietnam vets served 40-50 years ago, so it’s only fitting that the group has its fair share of gray hair and hearing aids. No matter, with shoulders back and heads held high, they marched and waved and had a grand time, honoring veterans of all eras and seeming to erase the years that had passed. They marched with pride and vigor on past the reviewing stand, until, that is, they wisely chose to veer off the parade route and hit Der Biergarten for lunch and, of course, beer. Come to think of it, they were still marching as they hit the door. There, they proved that age had not hampered their beer drinking abilities in the least.
Even though it looked as though the parade participants outnumbered the spectators, it was clear that all involved enjoyed themselves. After all, everyone loves a parade.