Memory of the Day: Hi folks, I’m back. I am on a hiatus from my MOD in order to try to pull these stories into book form, but every now and then I get an urge to share a memory with my friends. This one comes with an apology to all of my friends who went into the service and were subjected to drill and ceremonies and parades. I get that they can be uncomfortable and seemingly a waste of time in this high tech military environment, but I still have gotta say that…”I love a parade.” I have been fond of parades since I was privileged to march with Mrs. McCormick’s Cub Scout Den in the Oak Grove Home Coming Parade. I loved putting on that blue and yellow uniform and being with all of the other boys in the Den. Later as a Boy Scout I was able to continue marching in the Oak Grove parades.
I am pretty sure I got my love of parades from my dad. There was a man that would tear up at the briefest glimpse of the American Flag or a note or two of a good Sousa march.
When I got into college and was required to take my first two years of ROTC I really got schooled on drill and ceremonies. I wasn’t all that keen on ROTC at the time, but I did like being in the infrequent parades we marched in. This might be a good time to mention that when it comes to marching in parades, I am a weak contender with my brother Wayne Grant. Wayne went to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York and had to perform in many parades. I imagine they got pretty old after a while, but I always loved watching the Corps of Cadets parade when we would visit.
I mentioned about not being that keen on ROTC the first two years of college, but I decided that the best way for me to avoid being drafted was to go into Advanced ROTC, there is another story there, suffice it to say that my grades were not going to keep the Draft Board off of me, but being in Advanced ROTC might. Well the obvious conclusion to this decision was that I was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army. Turns out I had some aptitude for this and was a late bloomer. It soon became clear to me that I was pretty good at what I did. Anyway back to parades. The first several years in the Army, I didn’t have much opportunity to parade. The first year and a half I spent on a HAWK missile site with a 24/7 duty cycle so there was not time. Then I went to Vietnam where, again, I was pretty busy making sure my platoon and myself got home without any losses. Then I returned to a garrison unit in the States at Fort Riley, KS with the First Infantry Division. In the 8 months we were in Fort Riley, we had the occasional parade. The picture in this post is a batallion parade at Fort Riley. I’m the guy in the front of Battery A. I had other parades when the unit went to Germany, but the highlight of my parades were the two most memorable.
After I returned to Fort Bliss, TX from Germany, I commanded a HAWK Battery there. In 1977, General of the Armies Omar Bradley (if you are too young to remember who he was, look it up. You’ll thank me) was sent to Fort Bliss. He came in to spend the remainder of his life on this Southwest post. General Bradley took over the quarters (housing for you civilians) of the commanding general of William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Well Fort Bliss held a huge parade with a “Pass in Review” to welcome General Bradley. It was incredibly hot that summer in the desert surrounding Fort Bliss. We stood at parade rest in the hot sun through several fairly long winded speeches by various generals and then the time came for us to pass in review. After having our boot polish melt onto the grass of the parade field, we were finally moving. I wish I had a movie of this moment because I’ll always remember passing by the “Soldiers’ General,” as the troops in WWII named him. He was very old and in a wheel chair on the reviewing stand, but when the first units began passing he stood with the help of his aide and rendered a salute to each unit as it passed. Damned impressive. I beamed as I approached the reviewing stand and shouted over my right shoulder…”Eyes Right.” I snapped the best salute I ever snapped and had the privilege of saluting the last living Five Star General on the planet. I’ll never forget that experience.
My final parade to be involved in was spectacular. I feel so sorry for those who retire from the military and do not take advantage of the honors they deserve and are offered. I was stationed in Washington, DC so was eligible for a retirement ceremony put on by the Third Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard.” These are the same guys that guard the Tomb of the Unknown, perform funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and perform in any number of shows including the Spirit of America. These grand soldiers passed in review for me and the 4 other retirees on the reviewing stand. My, it was grand. Then to top it all off, the US Army Fife and Drum Corps passed in review and played for us as they marched by. Take a look at the You Tube Link. at about 2:40 into the video, they do the slow step march. This is how they passed us on the reviewing stand while the leader saluted us. I loved it.
Today, I go to parades when I can. I still want to take my grandkids down to Fort Bragg to watch the 82d Airborne Division parade. I know I would enjoy it and think they would too. On nice days in the neighborhood, instead of going to the gym and walking on the treadmill, I put my earbuds in and listen to Sousa marches as I march through the neighborhood at 120 steps per minute with a 30 inch stride. I salute every American Flag I pass on my march through the neighborhood (about 26 in my 2.5 mile loop, yes, I know, it’s fantastic to see so many flags flying. I do wish they understood flag etiquette and wouldn’t leave them out in the dark without a light on them, but I guess I will just be happy to see so many of them).
Well, that’s it for parades, now back to the book for a while.