A giant flag, suspended from two hook and ladder fire trucks, hung above the street on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Superior and provided a focal point for the 68th annual Appleton Flag Day Parade.
We sat near it and watched nearly every unit spot it, and shift left to march under it as their representative photographers scurried to snap the moment.
Respect for the flag and the people who serve it has been hallmark of this parade since the Appleton Elks Club first hosted it back in 1949. This year, six VFW lodges, color guards from the U.S. Army, the Appleton Police Department, American Legion Post 38, the U.S. Marine Corps., Neenah-Menasha Veterans, and representatives from all major branches of the military marched in the parade, led by Grand Marshal Major General Patrick Reinert.
Fourteen bands scored the event, and marched past cheerful crowds of flag-waving families. Like many people, we set our chairs out more than seven hours before the start of the parade, and arrived to find them undisturbed.
What I like about the Appleton Flag Day parade is that it inspires genuine respect — not the hashtagged variety so fraught with nastiness on both sides of the political spectrum, but the kind that grows naturally when:
- A WWII veteran locks eyes with a surly teen-ager and the latter stands and applauds.
- A group representing the military’s “Return and Recovery” program marches to show civilians that the battle doesn’t end when the boots reach home soil, and veterans that empathy exists and help is only a phone call or click away.
- Two little children stand and wave their flags excitedly every time a group of veterans marches past.
- A little boy, marching with his veteran grandpa and wearing a “Dab for Freedom” T-shirt, dabs.
- A horse-drawn hearse offers a silent reminder of the profound cost of freedom.
- A full high school band (or five) shows up the weekend after the last day of school.
I really enjoy the Appleton Flag Day Parade, reportedly the largest in the country. In case you missed it, I snapped a photo or two…