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Tuesday, April 24 Opinion

Hines Sight / I love a parade -- and what Fairfield's Memorial Day stands for

When I was a kid, I always wanted to march in the Memorial Day parade.

The idea of walking proudly down a main street, being patriotic and waving to the crowds lining the sidewalks was intriguing. That hour or so of being in the spotlight among family, friends, classmates and neighbors had a certain allure (although I was incredibly shy as a child).

But every time the subject came up in our house, a pall came over my parents' faces as they scrambled to think of a reason why I shouldn't. Each year the answer was the same: something about marching in a parade is tiring and I probably wouldn't finish the miles-long walk. (They seemed to add greater emphasis on the distance each time.) They thought it best that I didn't.

I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and my troops usually had the opportunity to march in the parade, but not all of the troop members did. Their parents must have had the same reasons as mine.

It wasn't until several years later that I began to see my parents' true motivation for dissuading me -- they were afraid I'd volunteer them to march with me. And, based on some other scouting adventures my siblings and I got them involved in, they had good reason to be scared.

Of course, imagine my surprise many years after these discussions when we found ourselves on the sidelines watching Mom march in the Memorial Day parade with one of her many activity groups. She was a trouper, even though she complained of achy legs and feet most of her life. I have a photo of her in a red shirt and white pants, waving to the crowd and with a big smile on her face.

I also was surprised when I found out some time ago that she was a parade groupie -- she relished all of the noise and people and patriotism. She and Dad often went to parades in the area.

In the years after my father died and Mom was still able, I took her to the Fairfield Memorial Day parade. We parked ourselves on beach chairs in a prime location in Fairfield Center.

She loved our parade -- and why not? It's one of the best in the area.

And this year's is bound to be even better, considering the town is celebrating its 375th anniversary. This year's theme is: "South Korea has remained free since 1954; we honor the veterans who served in the Korean War. Fairfield celebrates year 375 with respect and honor to our veterans this 2014."

Nearly 80 groups, some riding on festive floats, will participate in the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Monday and follows a route from South Pine Creek Road, east down Post Road, around the corner at the library to Old Post Road and disbands at South Benson Road. It passes by the reviewing stand, which seats a host of local dignitaries.

At Old Town Hall is the ceremony to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is the keynote speaker. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, after the Civil War to honor our country's war dead.

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And if you're free on Saturday, attend the Sea Ceremony, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at South Benson Marina. It's always a somber event. A special tribute will take place in recognition of David W. Russell Jr.'s Navy career. Russell, who died in August 2013, was a U.S. Navy seaman first class and was assigned to a submarine chaser during World War II. In 1954, he joined the Fairfield Fire Department and was fire chief from 1975 to 1991, when he retired.

He exemplified our country's veterans and servicemen and servicewomen, and patriotism, and took pride in his service to his country and his town.

Country music artist Lee Greenwood perhaps said it best in his song "Proud to be an American."

And I'm proud to be an American

Where at least I know I'm free

And I won't forget the men who died,

Who gave that right to me

And I gladly stand up next to you

And defend her still today

'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land

God bless the U.S.A.

Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at hinessight@hotmail.com. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.