It is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor those who have fallen in service of our country. It has its origins in the aftermath of the Civil War, in 1868 in Decatur, Illinois by Union Army veterans who wanted to decorate the graves of their fallen brothers in arms. Initially known as Decoration Day, it became Memorial Day officially in 1967. It is typically a time to reflect on those lives lost.
In Lockport, we have made the news over our Memorial Day parade. And it’s not in a good way. The hullabaloo raised by Teresa Manna, founder of United Stockings Sailors Soldiers, is taking away from the focus of the day. A lot of it comes over candy, whether it should be thrown or not, and whether she is being singled out.
As the story made the news, many people on social media chimed in with their particular point of view. There is a strong divide between each side, and many people have gotten quite nasty over it, continuing to take away from the spirit of the day. At the same time, many people don’t understand what Memorial Day is supposed to be about.
Last Saturday, May 20th, was Armed Forces Day. That is the day we honor those men and women who are currently serving in the military. Memorial Day is the day we honor the fallen. Meanwhile, Veterans Day in November, honors all former members of the military.
Manna claims that children won’t come to the parade without candy. “At the graves and at the monuments, they place wreaths and they place the flags and that is a mourning process. At the parade, it’s supposed to be joyful, wonderful, a celebration, the kids are out, families are out,” she said.
We respectfully disagree. The parade is a continuation of the placing of wreaths and flags at the gravesites. The parade is the time, as parents, we explain what the day is about as the various groups pass. We should teach our children that there is a price to be paid for the freedoms we enjoy, and we should take the time to pay respects for that price. For an hour or so on Sunday, we should feel the losses that have affected so many people.
At the end of the parade, after we’ve paid our respects to our fallen heroes, we’ll scatter to the winds to cook burgers and dogs and hang out with family and friends. That’s the time for celebrating the time we have with our family and friends -- after we’ve paid the proper respects.
Early Saturday, someone asked me, “If the Memorial Day parade is such a somber event, why do they have a big party at the end the parade?” It’s actually pretty simple. It’s not so much a party as it is an open house by the particular service organization that is hosting the parade. It gives people a chance to see what these organizations do. Typically, they are private, member only clubs. This gives them a chance to showcase what they do for our veterans.
The Lockport Memorial Day parade is hosted on a rotating schedule through the various veterans organizations. Each organization has a set of protocols they follow and which they insist parade participants follow. It’s their parade. It’s their rules. If you can’t or won’t follow the rules set forth by the people running the parade, then that’s the end of the discussion. The City of Lockport has no say in the matter other than to issue the permit.
On social media, Manna has declared that she will attend the parade to support the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. At the same time, she’s hoping to gather in a place that will guarantee that her group will be on television. We believe she is making a mistake by attempting to make this spectacle. If she really wants to support the reason for the parade, she should not make the focus all about her.
It is our sincere hope that Ms. Manna takes a moment to realize this parade is far bigger than her, and that she does the right thing by not stealing the spotlight. The brave men and women who died serving our country deserve more than that.