THE COST OF FREEDOM......IT ISN’T FREE.......... A series of commentaries dedicated to the men and women who stand in the gap to protect our freedoms. Military Missions Inc. proudly supports and encourages each individual that wears, or has worn, the uniform of the United States Armed Forces, and their family members who make sacrifices that often go unnoticed.
PART ONE: FREEDOM-DO WE APPRECIATE IT?
Military Missions entered a float in Lexington’s July 4th Parade this year. We had a great time putting the float together and were so glad to have the opportunity to honor our military heroes during the parade. Our theme, FREEDOM ISN’T FREE was complimented with flags from each branch of the Armed Forces. Several uniformed military members rode along on our float, as well.
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While walking the parade route, we saw many photographers with their cameras. As many others probably did after the parade, we rushed to the internet to see pictures of our float. We checked website after website, day after day, and could not find pictures of our float. We saw many different slide shows, most of which were in chronological order. During the parade, we were lined up behind a pink limo and in front of a group of bicycle riders and the gay pride float. It was really disappointing to see that photographers had gotten good shots of the pink limo, the bikes, and the gay pride float, but there wasn’t a single picture of our float to be found. Not only that, as I looked through the many pictures on the internet, I found very few photos of our military and veterans who also had entered floats in the parade.
Another thing that disturbed me about the parade was the reaction of the crowd. As we walked the parade route, we waved our flags and tried to encourage people to clap and say thanks to our military....sadly, this was not an automatic response from the crowd. A small percentage of people responded, but the majority of people stood there with strained looks on their faces. Some people looked angry, some just look bewildered as if they didn’t understand what we were suggesting that they do. I was so embarrassed realizing that our uniformed military were watching this same reaction. Not one of them expected to be put up on a pedestal. In fact, each soldier on our float was asked to give up their holiday to “work” by putting on the uniform and riding on our float. It was our idea to put them on the float and I’m sure they would have preferred being at home with their families. No one ever said anything, but I had to wonder if any of them went home feeling discouraged.
The irony of walking past thousands of people, all dressed in red, white, and blue, celebrating America’s birthday, who weren’t the least bit moved by a float to honor the very ones that make another birthday possible each year was mind boggling! I’m still scratching my head over this one. I’m trying to figure out if we, as a nation, appreciate our freedom or if we have just come to expect it.
As we all know, every cloud has a silver lining. There were people in the crowd that smiled and furiously waved their flags with gratitude. There were tears on the faces of a few bystanders. We also won the Mayor’s Award for the float best representing the festival’s theme “Celebrate America”. For me the real award was hearing the lone voices along the way that cried out “Semper Fi” or Hooah! Just knowing that we were able to thank the veterans in the crowd was worth every second of all that went into making that float!
To see pictures of our float, go to www.militarymissionsonline.com/videos.htm.
Coming up: PART TWO: FREEDOM-DO WE REALLY UNDERSTAND IT?