Anthony Pavia Taps for Stamford Memorial Day parade?
Of all the national holidays, Memorial Day is arguably the most significant as it honors and remembers those who gave their lives defending this country. Just as important, Memorial Day serves as a reminder to every generation, of the tremendous price that Americans have paid throughout our history to preserve our democracy, our values and our way of life. Thus, it is deeply disturbing that our city’s leadership has decided that there will be no Memorial Day Parade in Stamford this year.
This decision was made, not because of some logistical issue which made a parade impossible. The reason for its cancellation is not clear.
It is very difficult to imagine why this decision was made or how our city leadership allowed it to be made. It seems that the parade will be replaced by a race and to be fair, this might very well be an excellent way to celebrate Memorial Day. What it is not however, is an adequate substitute for a parade. Perhaps a city of this size and means could have done both the parade and the race.
Some may argue that parades are a thing of the past, that the crowds are not what they used to be, or that new traditions should inevitably replace the old. However, as it stands now, Stamford is alone in that thinking and will be one of the very few towns or cities in the state not to have a Memorial Day Parade. Many of the area towns that surround us, some with less than a quarter of Stamford’s population, will be supporting a parade, along with other themed events.
And why have all of these communities maintained this tradition? Because they understand that a parade, more than any event, is the ultimate community event and the best way to honor this country’s sacrifices. It properly honors veterans and their service and at the same time, it involves huge elements of the community ranging from area civic groups to our school children and their families. What better way to remind our citizens of the true meaning of this important holiday? What better way to involve so many disparate elements of our community in a meaningful event?
My generation, growing up in the shadow of World War II, needed to look no farther than our own home or neighborhood to be reminded of the tremendous sacrifice made in the defense of our country. Our fathers, mothers, aunts uncles and neighbors, by their presence alone, provided us with an appreciation for those who fought and died for our country. Similarly, the Korean War, Vietnam War and the War on Terrorism provided similar awareness to succeeding generations.
However, as time passes and fewer people, particularly our young people, have been directly touched by the sacrifices made in time of war, a parade becomes an even more important vehicle to remind our citizens that freedom comes at an extremely high price.
The decision not to have a parade stands in stark contrast to Stamford’s rich history and legacy of sacrifice. This city has, in every war, represented a microcosm of the entire country.
Going back to the French and Indian War, over 250 years ago and extending up to the Global War on Terror, Stamford has lost hundreds of its citizens defending this country. This city has represented itself with great distinction in every American conflict. Its citizens have fought and died in places such as Saratoga, Gettysburg, The Argonne Forrest, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Chu Lai and Afghanistan. It is their sacrifice, as much as any other factor, that has allowed Stamford to thrive and prosper.
Unfortunately, it is too late to reverse this decision or at least, to have a meaningful discussion about it; and shame on Stamford’s leadership for that. However, it is not too late to make sure that this does not happen again or at least to pledge a more collaborative relationship with local veterans groups and other stakeholders to ensure a city of this size and significance recognizes Memorial Day, and,in a manner suiting this wonderful city.
The decision not to have a Memorial Day parade is shameful and the manner in which the decision was made is disrespectful to veterans, to the people of Stamford and to the rich legacy of sacrifice made by generations of Stamfordites. The citizens of this city deserve better.
The phrase, “Lest we forget” has for many years been associated with Memorial Day. Sadly, it appears as though Stamford’s leadership has already forgotten.
Anthony Pavia is a former principal of Stamford and Trinity Catholic high schools and a historian.