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The "Real" Memorial Day Parade
East Orange, NJ

05/31/10

One of the reasons the East Orange Interactive Museum is a sponsor of the East Orange Unified Marching Band is because they are so frequently linked with the history of East Orange. Today is a good example of that historic importance. Every year on memorial day, the United Staes Armed Services Veterans hold a parade. Not the big, flashy, noisy parade with fire trucks and vendors, but almost a private parade that few get to see.

This is the real Memorial Day Parade. The Veterans come out of City Hall at the stroke of 11:00 AM, where they have been holding Memorial Services since 9:00 AM. They march in formation around to the side of City Hall carrying a wreath.

The wreath is placed at the base of the Veteran's Monument which lists the names of those East Orange residents who died in the service of their country between 1941 and 1945, in World War II.

Yesterday's History merges with today's History as Khalil Welch, of the Cicely Tyson High School Marching Band plays "Taps." This is his fourth and last year playing "Taps" at this ceremony. Khalil is a senior in high school and will soon graduate and begin attending college away from East Orange. But however far he travels from us, we know that every year on Memorial Day, he will remember East Orange, his high school years, his marching band years, and the honor he had playing for these veterans each year at their special parade that few people attended.

As Khalil plays "Taps," the Veterans salute the flag and secretly wonder who among them will not be standing here next year. But now the ceremony ends, and their family and friends draw them back into today's world. Now it is time for a photo opportunity, and then off to the grandstand for that "other" Memorial Day Parade attended by most of the people of East Orange, who wave flags and cheer, and who never imagine that the real parade has already passed them by.

"Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime... let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphans." General John Logan, General Order No. 11, May 5th, 1868.

Let us always remember.

Also Available on YouTube

The "choicest flowers of springtime" are not on the wreath at the base of the monument. They are down at the other end of City Hall Plaza in the 1962 Senior Citizen's Garden, where earlier this morning they were being decorated with a few flags and ribbons so all will know they are a part of Memorial Day, too. Then the flags will be stolen by children who don't know any better, and the Garden will be trampled by weary marchers from that "other" parade, but it will be here again tomorrow, to be tended and watered and cherished by a few civic volunteers, like Al-Quadir Marsh shown in the photo above and members of the Historical Society of East Orange and others who pitch in to help beautify our city.

Forward to the "Other" Memorial Day Parade Photos and Video.

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