It means more than a pa­rade to this com­mu­nity

The Enterprise - - Community Forum -

To­mor­row morn­ing, Satur­day, Nov. 11, Fen­wick Street and the square in Leonard­town will host one of the big­gest crowds the town will see all year. Those peo­ple will be there for the an­nual Vet­er­ans Day pa­rade, which starts at 10 a.m.

About 1 in ev­ery 250 Amer­i­cans — 0.4 per­cent — are cur­rently serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, ac­cord­ing to Ral­lyPoint. com, and about 7.3 per­cent of all living Amer­i­cans have ever served, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs.

But the con­cen­tra­tion is thicker in St. Mary’s. The U.S. Cen­sus re­ports nearly 12,000 vet­er­ans call the mother county home. That’s al­most 11 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion here.

Those fig­ures just af­firm what this com­mu­nity al­ready knows. As host to Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River, St. Mary’s is keenly aware of the sac­ri­fices and com­mit­ment that mil­i­tary ser­vice de­mands, and many of its sons and daugh­ters elect to join the Navy and Marines, as well as the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. In­deed, St. Mary’s would be noth­ing like it is to­day if not for the im­por­tant work ac­com­plished ev­ery day by the more than 22,000 em­ploy­ees at the base, as well as by all of the de­fense con­trac­tors who sup­port it.

So the cel­e­bra­tion of Vet­er­ans Day is no per­func­tory ex­er­cise here. It’s much more than pomp and pageantry. It’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the mil­i­tary straw that stirs the eco­nomic drink here, and re­spect for all that it took — and takes — to main­tain those high stan­dards as the ac­knowl­edged hub of naval avi­a­tion. The an­nual pa­rade in Leonard­town, and the cer­e­monies that fol­low on the town square and later in He­len, are sin­cere and heart­warm­ing trib­utes to those who have served.

The pa­rade is in many ways the le­gacy of the late Clancy Lyall, a World War II para­trooper who fought in Nor­mandy. He was a tech­ni­cal ad­viser to Stephen Spiel­berg and Tom Hanks when they pro­duced “Band of Broth­ers” for HBO, which came on the heels of the block­buster film “Saving Pri­vate Ryan.” He knew about the D-Day in­va­sion, be­cause he lived it.

Be­gin­ning in 1993, Lyall or­ga­nized the Leonard­town pa­rade, en­cour­ag­ing mil­i­tary units and of­fi­cials from else­where to come and par­tic­i­pate. Lyall worked tire­lessly to in­still in younger gen­er­a­tions an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice of vet­er­ans be­fore his death in 2013 at age 86.

Since 2001, the ob­ser­vance of Vet­er­ans Day has come into even sharper focus. It is no longer just a trib­ute to those who served in peace­time or in wars past. The ter­ror­ist at­tacks of 9/11 (in which nine South­ern Mary­lan­ders were killed), and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that fol­lowed, have made clear once again the risks and costs of an­swer­ing the call to ser­vice. Peo­ple in St. Mary’s gen­uinely and deeply un­der­stand this.

Later to­mor­row, af­ter the pa­rade in town, the Vet­er­ans of He­len will spon­sor that com­mu­nity’s 32nd an­nual ob­ser­vance be­gin­ning at 2 p.m. at its mon­u­ment site on Route 5 just north of the high­way’s in­ter­sec­tion with Route 238. The event in He­len cus­tom­ar­ily in­cludes brief re­marks, a roll call of the com­mu­nity’s de­ceased vet­er­ans and a lay­ing of wreaths at the mon­u­ment. This yearly event owes a debt of grat­i­tude to its prin­ci­pal founder, Jim We­ber, a re­tired Marine cap­tain, now 87 and living in Bush­wood.

At­tend ei­ther — or both — events, but at the very least take a few mo­ments to­mor­row to honor lo­cal vet­er­ans and re­flect on their many sac­ri­fices to al­low us to live our lives as Amer­i­cans. Those who serve in our armed forces of­ten spend months away from loved ones, and may be sent into war where they risk their lives and en­dure harsh con­di­tions.

If you feel moved to do so, put a flag out so oth­ers know how you feel about your na­tion and those who served. If you see a vet­eran in the gro­cery store or else­where, thank them for their ser­vice. It may mean more to them than you could ever re­al­ize.

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