The Freedom Festival Grand Parade is a long-standing tradition in my family. We gather up chairs, blankets, sunscreen, and enough drinks and snacks to keep even the most wriggly one entertained for a couple of hours.
True, I love a parade. The bands, the floats, the horses, even the politicians. But when the long string of military veterans rode by, I had no control. I sprung to my feet and cheered. Behind my sunglasses, the makeup was running down my face in a classic Tammy Faye Baker moment. And when the Pearl Harbor survivor was ferried down the route, I totally lost it.
My husband and I and a few other people sprinkled in the restless crowd stood out more than a bit with our enthusiasm. For most, the “entry” didn’t seem to mean much more than the Wasatch Bank balloon or the Provo High bulldog.
Not too many minutes later a massive throng of black and white approached. I looked up just as the 2,000 stripling missionaries assigned to the Provo, Utah Mission pressed down upon us. Immediately and spontaneously hundreds of people leapt to their feet, cheering, calling, and applauding with hands over their heads.
I love, love, love the missionaries. We feed them. We honk and wave. We send them letters. And I, too, cheered wildly for them.
But if we have the energy and the room in our hearts to honor those who give up two years of their lives to spread the gospel of Christ, could we not at least do the same for those who gave up their lives or were willing to to allow us the freedom to do so?