Damn! They had to go and cancel the parade scheduled for tomorrow.

But no matter what, you can’t cancel the reason for the parade. All those executive orders thrown at us left and right almost on a daily basis can cancel parades and cookouts and Little League games and festivals and celebrations, but they can’t cancel Memorial Day. You simply cannot cancel the memories simply by silencing the bands. You can’t ignore the importance of a day like Memorial Day just because of federal and state edicts.

Fact is, that from the carnage of the Civil War (which claimed the most casualties in our history), to date, we have lost 12,441,007 Americans in all wars, conflicts, and military campaigns. You just don’t cancel the deaths of more than twelve-and-a-half million people and dismiss them because we are in the midst of a pandemic. That should pale against the fact that 12,441,007 men and women went to war, fought for this country, and in doing so, preserved our freedoms.

“It’s only a parade,” you may be saying or thinking. “No big deal. There’ll be one next year.” Yes, indeed, there will be one next year and the year after that, but the sad fact remains that some of the participants may no longer be marching or riding in them, or even still be here. Our two-state community is rich with veterans, 40 to 100 years old-plus, and a cancellation of this parade is indeed a very BIG deal.

Right now there’s a great deal of emotional support and outreach to the Classes of 2020 nationwide for missing their proms, senior nights, trips, sports banquets, and graduations, but what about those soldiers who never came home for their celebrations? Who never had the chance to marry, have children, build a career, and enjoy a full life? These are the people we need to stop and mourn and remember and thank tomorrow.

Those aforementioned veterans who live in our area are our link, our history books to these brave men and women who gave all. While the middle schools and high schools are crammed full of textbooks that tell of battles won and lost, it is our living veterans who are our best sources of information. We honor them in November on Veterans Day, but every day there is something to learn from the women and men who were there, who bear the scars of those wars, both physical and mental. They have within their “pages” the stories that need to be told, or sadly, they will die with them. No amount of distance learning can provide what they have within them, so take the time to sit down with a much-maligned Vietnam veteran and get the “real” story. Have a cup of coffee (outside and at a distance, of course) with someone who was part of Operation Enduring Freedom, who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, who was part of the Korean War in which 36, 574 Americans died. Find those very rare “volumes,” the history books that are the World War II vets ... there are a number of them living in our area, but they are dwindling rapidly ... and let them tell you why they never had second thoughts about serving. They volunteered or willingly went when drafted, doing what they had to do ... so we can be free to give our opinions, march in parade or protest, and live our lives.

Tomorrow’s parade is really not canceled. You don’t need a marching band, baton twirlers, rifle fire, the playing of “Taps,” and a guy selling cotton candy and balloons on the sidelines. Our parade is right here, right in front of us, every single day. It’s up to us to not let it pass by without a salute, or without some parade rest, during which time we open a “history book” or two and get the real story of who we are because of where they’ve been.

Tomorrow ... Stop. Pause. Remember. Honor. Respect.

Don’t cancel our history books, don’t let an executive order deem tomorrow just “another cancellation, just another victim of the pandemic.” It’s not “just another day.” It never was. It shaped our history, allowed us our freedoms, and filled us with history books. Go find one of them, take some time, ask some questions, then sit back, and just listen.

Don’t let anything cancel their memories.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 18 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at six07co@att.net or 401-539-7762.

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