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November 10. 2012 11:56PM

For veterans: A parade and thanks

At 10:30 this morning, the sidewalks of Manchester's Elm Street will line with too few people. They will stand on cold concrete slabs of sidewalk and watch the flags go past, most of them carried by strong, young men and women. Older men, their uniforms faded a lighter shade of green, their silver hair catching the morning sunlight, will follow, as others long gone did when these men were young.

This parade ought to fill the sidewalks with waving throngs. Usually there is a good crowd, but the sidewalks are always passable. In some years the Christmas parade, though always held on a colder day, draws more people. It is hard for veterans to compete with Santa Claus, even though their gift is greater than anything the jolly old elf could fit into his magic sack.

This nation has been blessed for more than two centuries with men and women of extraordinary character and courage whose lives are much too quickly forgotten and whose abilities were much too often underestimated.

At the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, American General Henry Lee retreated in the face of a British advance. He told General Washington that his men were unable to stand against the better trained and more experienced British troops. "Sir, they are able, and by God they shall do it!" was Washington's angry reply. They were, and they did.

Washington's assessment rings true to this day. Yet in every conflict our enemy has to learn anew that the Americans are able and shall do it. The Americans might be mechanics or shopkeepers or salesmen or middle-managers in their civilian lives, but on the battlefield they are warriors, sometimes reluctant, often frightened, but always able, always courageous.

Today's forecast is 60 degrees and sunny. It should be a beautiful day for a parade. Won't you go out, just for an hour, and say thanks?


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