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Archive for the ‘Memorial Day’ Category

Memorial Day - flight

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Whether you are one of the millions hitting the roads, or are one of those who chose to hang out closer to home for picnics with friends and family, take a moment to remember the meaning of the day.

For me and my family, Memorial Day is synonymous with our father, Howard Woodbury, who made sure we knew the true meaning of the day. Sure, we had the typical family and friends at large picnics, but Memorial Day was a BIG day for my Dad.

Like many, my Dad lost his only brother in World War II. My dad never enlisted, even though he went down to the draft board four times – only to be rejected due to severe varicose veins in his legs (reportedly from playing high school football while having chickenpox).

My father regretted that he could never join the services like his brother, his three brother-in-laws and numerous friends. He had to stay stateside with most of the women and those too old or too feeble to serve. Instead of complaining, he volunteered as part of the Civil Defense Corps at home. Thus began his life as a volunteer, giving back to his community, Wyckoff, N.J.

So it is no wonder that my earliest memories of Memorial Day include putting flags on veteran’s graves at the cemetery. And, it’s no wonder that Dad, a volunteer fireman and fire chief, would manage the local Memorial Day services, the laying of the memorial wreaths and the town’s special Memorial Day Parade for more than three decades.

My Dad’s behind-the-scenes work on that parade Parade was evident with its growth and refinement over the years. In fact, at some point or another, everyone in my family had either marched, drove a vehicle or helped out before or after it. And in later years, we would try to be there watching as enthusiastic spectators.

As parade chairman, my father considered all aspects of that Memorial Day Parade – its timing, the types of bands, the varied groups – veterans, politicians, community groups, etc. – and its length (1 to 1 1/2 hours, so it wasn’t too short or too boring.) Afterwards, he would ask us to critique it.

In 1996, the last Memorial Day of my Dad’s life, he was in the hospital for cancer treatments. Knowing it might be his last parade, my older sister and I begged the doctors for a temporary release, so he could watch “his” beloved Memorial Parade one last time. We managed to get him parked in a special place just as the parade began, and every marching unit performed in front of him as smiles and tears of joy ran down his cheeks.

My Dad, “Mr. Memorial Parade,” died in late September of that year. For his funeral, my brother – who followed in Dad’s footsteps as fire chief and parade chairman – fittingly arranged for a funeral parade down that same route to the cemetery with his fire trucks, his antique rig and the last engine his volunteer efforts helped purchase. The Wyckoff Memorial Parade – one of his legacies – continues to this day.

“Mr. Memorial Parade” was never a veteran, but he made all of us stop, reflect and remember why this weekend is a three-day weekend. So, no matter how you enjoy this Memorial Day holiday – traveling, watching a parade or attending a picnic, please take some time from your busy activities like my father to recognize the sacrifices of our present and past brave veterans.

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