It’s one of the largest parades of its kind in the nation and it’s held on Memorial Day every year right here in Springfield.
Unlike last year, the 2014 edition was blessed with wonderful weather.
Parade Chairman Jim Stewart estimated over 2,000 people and nearly 100 units were in the parade on Monday. And the crowd was large as we made our way from West High Street, up Fountain Avenue and over McCreight Avenue to Ferncliff Cemetery. The procession lasted for some 2 1/2 hours.
This year, I drove the K99.1 FM van in the parade. Thank you to all those who waved, hollered and sang the station call letters jingle as I drove past. I’ll pass along your good wishes to my colleagues at the station. While there were calls from the crowd for music, that was best left to the marching bands and a few other units better equipped to provide that.
The parade is important because it is one of only a handful of events each year that brings the entire community together. And it provides an opportunity to visit with people you do not see on a regular basis and also to meet new people.
There was also a bigger-than-usual crowd at the ceremony that was held at Ferncliff Cemetery after the parade.
The featured speaker at the ceremony was Linda Howell, who told me she and her late husband, Larry, were both career Army veterans and worked in Army Intelligence. She also spent part of her career in recruiting. In both cases, she was in positions that did not include many women during that time.
Now a member of the Clark County Veterans Council, Howell told the crowd, “We all need to stand up for the freedom of the United States of America.”
She went on to say, “If not for the military of this country, there would be no freedom. The price paid by our veterans gives us the freedom we have today.” She also encouraged people to exercise one of those freedoms, “the right to vote in elections.”
Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said, “We need to be particularly aware today of the need to take care of those who serve (in the military).”
And Eli Williams, who is Clark County Veterans Council Chaplain, referred to the lyrics of a song by Whitney Houston: “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”
“Good song, wrong message,” Williams said. “Great love requires great sacrifice. Today we honor such men and women who were able to make the sacrifice of giving their lives.”
I have been in other cities — some the same size or even larger than Springfield — and watched their Memorial Day parades. They pale in comparison. This community should be proud of the grand tradition that continues today and of all those who work hard for months to organize and ensure that the event is a success.