After a weekend of grey skies, the sun shone on Saline for Memorial Day activities Monday.
Throngs of people, many dressed in patriotic colors, descended upon the Saline Area Fire Department for the annual Boy Scout Troop 400 pancake breakfast. At around 9 a.m., Scouts served breakfast straight from the griddle on the north end of the building, a line stretched all the way to the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue.
Families were all smiles as they dined in the firehouse and firefighters showed children the fire trucks.
The annual Saline Memorial Day Parade began shortly after 10 a.m. Thousands of people lined Michigan Avenue from Harris Street to Monroe Street to greet the veterans leading the parade. The crowd applauded as the veterans marched by.
Moments of laughter punctuated the solemn Memorial Day activities. An antique corvette carrying Miss Junior Poppy Queen Brooklyn Andrews stalled at the four corners. A half dozen people rushed out to the car and to push it down the hill.
The marching bands from Saline Middle School and Saline High School performed patriotic music. The New Horizons band also performed. A long line of Twirlettes and Scouts marched in the parade. They were followed by girls and boys on bikes or in wagons, decorated in red, white and blue.
Hundreds of people followed the parade to Oakwood Cemetery, where a crowd gathered for a speeches, the laying of the wreaths, the ceremonial rifle volley and playing TAPS, patriotic songs performed by the Saline High School marching band, and speeches and prayers.
Mayor Brian Marl and Congressman Tim Walberg, Grand Marshal of the Parade, spoke.
Standing in the shadow of the doughboy monument to World War 1 sailors and soldiers, Mayor Brian Marl spoke about America’s divine duty to protect freedom around the world. Marl said the Great War was not as understood or revered as it should be. The war set the tone for America’s position as global leader in the fight for freedom, he said, and President Woodrow Wilson’s deep Christian beliefs guided him as he asked Congress to declare war.
“If we break down and summarize the (10) Commandments, as is done in the Gospel Mark, we can reduce their number by eight, which leaves us with ‘Honor and obey the Lord, your God,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” Marl said. “It’s worth noting your neighbor is defined as every living soul on this earth. That’s your neighbor. No one is excluded and there are no exceptions.”
President Wilson saw a moral obligation to help those who were suffering, Marl said.
“Complacency and indifference is no virtue in the face of human tragedy,” Marl said. “Despite the cynics, despite the naysayers, and despite fervent opposition, on April 2, 1917, President Wilson requested a declaration of war against Germany and the Central Powers.”
Marl said America’s involvement changed the direction of world history.
“We made a commitment to fight and die for others and create a world where every one of God’s children can realize their full potential, free from fear and oppression,” Marl said.
Marl said there are people who believe America should not project its values around the word, or who believe America would be safer if it was isolationist.
“They’re wrong,” Marl quipped. “America has a paramount role to play in global affairs. We do a disservice to all those who fought and died for those freedoms, and the freedom of complete strangers, when we do not assume that responsibility.”
Marl then paraphrased former President George W. Bush.
“Freedom is not America’s gift to the world. Freedom is God’s gift to every man, woman and child on this earth,” Marl said. “Today and every day, let us recommit ourselves to the fight for freedom. Today, and every day, let us remember and support those we have lost and those who have sacrificed so much for our cherished values.”
Marl concluded by suggesting American military action was above question.
“Let no one question that this nation and our armed forces will continue to stand up and defend what is right,” Marl said.
Congressman Walberg honored America’s war dead, but also honored today’s soldiers and their families. Like Marl, Walberg tied America’s role in the world to his personal faith. And the Republican who resides in Tipton used his Memorial Day speech to take shots at fellow Americans who disagreed with him.
Walberg said more than 1.1 million soldiers have died in America’s 241-year history.
“We remain free today – a free country – with the longest history of uninterrupted freedom of any nation on earth, thanks to them,” Walberg said.
Walberg said Memorial Day was to salute those who died and also those who served, yesterday and today. He said today’s soldiers serve in a war different from all others.
“They will never end. Wars against extreme terrorism, arrogant, evil mindless terrorism – a war that will truly never end,” Walberg said. “But these and other wars have shown that America has stood ready to defend our freedom and the freedom of all those who seek our help.”
Walberg said America should never again allow a repeat of the way returning veterans were treated after the Vietnam War and he attempted to shame today’s anti-war voices.
“it is shameful to hear the strident voices of some our political leadership today – giving aid and comfort to the enemy in their libelous, unbridled and sometimes self-serving pronouncements and information leaks. This must stop. And the people must say so,” Walberg said.
Walberg said Americans must do more to pay homage
“America is great because it has been blessed by the one true god upon whose principles we were founded,” Walberg said. “We enjoy our liberty without acknowledging the high price paid for those treasures.”
Walberg then criticized some Americans.
“We’re so prone to get lazy, selfish, impatient and shallow in our patriotism, when it costs us so little,” Walberg said. “But in all wars, the ultimate cause was freedom. The men and women who risked their lives did so because they believed in freedom. Not just freedom for themselves and freedom for their families, but also freedom for distant lands and peoples. It was their duty to fight for freedom. They knew they might die. But they knew that they would not die without honor,” Walberg said.
Walberg said that Americans were united in World War II, which cost the lives of 400,000 Americans.
“The people, the leadership, the media and even Hollywood stood with them,” Walberg said.
Walberg said no weapon is as formidable as the will and courage of a free people, but said Americans are giving it way away.
“Just listen to some of our political leadership, our media, our academic elite and, yes, our common, ordinary citizens who are caught in the value system that says ‘It’s all about me and my comfort,’” Walberg said.
He then quoted former President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt.
“A nation that destroys its soul destroys itself,” Walberg said.
Following Walberg’s speech, Vietnam Veteran Paulo Pereira recited the poem In Flanders Fields.
After the speeches, honored veterans and Poppy Queens Tess Carichner and Brooklyn Andrews placed wreaths around the doughboy monument. The color guard fired three shots into the air and trumpeters from the Saline band played TAPs.
After a prayer, the Saline marching bands played the Star Spangled Banner and the service ended.