This year’s Memorial Day parade in Saratoga Springs may not go all that smoothly compared to those in other communities, but the fact that it’s happening at all marks a huge step forward.
Last week, the veterans organizations that had been organizing the parade, which was held for many years on the Wednesday evening before Memorial Day, canceled it due to a perceived lack of support. But local resident Paul Brisson has stepped forward to organize a new parade from scratch, to be held on Memorial Day itself. And he is getting financial and other support, primarily through a Facebook page. City authorities, to their credit, are cooperating.
The parade is now scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Monday, starting just south of the City Center and proceeding down Broadway to Congress Park, where an informal community picnic will be held.
Saratoga’s bigger patriotic parade has been for Flag Day in June, which has tended to overshadow the pre-Memorial Day event. Many people think of Memorial Day primarily as part of a three-day weekend marking the beginning of summer, a time to head to Lake George or the pool — or the mall — and escape from daily cares. It’s easy to see why some of those veterans and others who spent years organizing the Wednesday parades may have gotten frustrated by this attitude and thought it too great a burden, financial and otherwise, to carry on with the event.
But the cancellation seems to have been a salutary shock to many people. A parade is an American institution, with bands and Scouts, Little Leaguers and old-timers marching together and having fun. This one, though, is also a more serious event. Brisson is not himself a veteran, yet he rightly felt, as did many others, that it would be wrong to let this parade fade away.
Today’s soldiers are volunteers, and often go on deployment after deployment into the wars the United States seems constantly to fight. Many Americans do not support those wars, but recognize the decision to fight them is made not by soldiers but by the politicians we all elect. The soldiers go to places like Afghanistan on our behalf, sometimes never to return. A Memorial Day parade helps all Americans, whatever their politics or opinions about a war, remember those uncomfortable facts.