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The real stars of the parade

Photo by Celeste Bolea

The Coraopolis Veterans Memorial sits outside of VFW Post 402 on Mulberry Street. The Coraopolis Memorial Day Parade is set for 12:30 p.m. on Monday, May 30.


By Celeste Bolea

It is two weeks before Memorial Day and I am taking a walk through the streets of my hometown. As I pass the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) building, I stop and look at the names on the granite stones that stand guard on the lawn. I recognize many of the names that are etched there—they are the last names of classmates that I had known long ago. Who were they to them—grandfather, father, uncle, brother?

As a child Memorial Day meant the anticipation of the parade, standing there on Fifth Avenue, flag in hand, watching the local police force barricade the main avenue. The tap-tap of the drumsticks fills the air with the cadence that signals the beginning of the first score. The drum majorettes, the drill team, and the dance troupes all perform upbeat routines. The convertible carrying local dignitaries, and the homecoming queen signal that the end of the parade is near. What I realize now as the real stars of the show begin their promenade is that they save the best for last—the Veterans—the reason for this day. They proudly carry their banners in honor of those who were never given the chance to return to this honorable stage.

As I continue my walk, I notice the banners hanging on the streetlamps (yes, streetlamps). They are photos and inscriptions of soldiers and their tours of duty. All the wars are represented with hometown boys and girls – some of whom never came home to this small Western Pennsylvania town. There is old “Doc” Braden up on a banner. He bandaged wounds, sewed stitches and gave happy and sad news to his patients for over 70 years. I never knew he was a Vet.

I have seen the slogans, “Freedom isn’t Free” and “They gave their all” but they passed by my consciousness too quickly to register. Taking this walk this morning has awakened me to the supreme sacrifice others make on my behalf. My seven-year-old granddaughter told me she wanted to be a ballerina and a veteran when she grows up. Surprised and amused, I asked her if she knew what a veteran was and she replied, “It’s a hero.” Out of the mouths of babes.

This Memorial Day, I say with all humble appreciation to the members of the military and their families, “Thank you for your service.” And I really mean it.

In this piece, writer Celeste Bolea refers to the town of Coraopolis but notes that she purposely left out the location “because it can be any of our small Ohio Valley towns.”


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