A 13-year-old Foreign Exchange Student
Asks Where Our Military Parade Is
The conversation in the past week has turned to the President’s desire for a huge Military Parade. If I’ve learned nothing else in this lifetime, I have learned that the answers to most of life’s questions come from the wisdom shared with my boys when they were growing up. My initial reaction to the announcement was one of concern. I reacted with discomfort to the idea of tanks and missiles rolling down the streets of D.C. Then, I was suddenly transported back to a sunny day in Minnesota and the annual Fourth of July Parade when I shared my thoughts on why we don’t need a show of force in this country.
An American Lesson for a Child from Mexico
The year was 1985, and we had welcomed a thirteen-year-old boy from Pueblo, Mexico into our family for the summer. This remarkable little boy shared stories about his family and gifts from Mexico when he arrived at our home. I had no idea the child was aching to see a military parade to boast of the strength of America that summer.
My oldest son, Tom (TR) was fourteen and Bill was twelve when Juan arrived. My two boys and Brad, who lived across the street, were the Three Musketeers. They were constantly together. I watched as the three delighted in adding a Fourth Musketeer. The house nearly exploded with laughter and adventure that summer.
A Difference in Cultures
The boys learned all about the Volkswagen factory in Pueblo where Juan’s father worked as the Plant Manager. They also started to learn what it was like to live a life of privilege. Juan’s family had two homes…one in Pueblo and one on the coast. Each home had teams of servants who took care of everything for the family.
So, when Juan came to the United States, he brought much more than a suitcase and passport. He carried a large sum of cash and several credit cards.
Juan’s mission was to buy Guess jeans and Nike shoes for himself and his sister. He was also in the market for a serger sewing machine for his grandmother. (I had no idea what that was.)
At the time, I was a working mother. The lessons I taught my children about picking up after themselves were lost in the flurry of activity our new son added to our daily landscape.
Juan came to our home as part of a cultural exchange, not an educational one. After a few rough weeks, Juan came to understand there were no servants at our home. He quickly decided it was important to “make ze bed evr’y seengle morning” in order to get his pillow back because “it’s not nice to sleep without peelows.” (I didn’t holler at the boys, they learned important life lessons in meaningful but kind ways.)
So, what could have become a problem was actually a great learning experience for our newest son. He learned what it’s like to live within a normal working family who respects even the smallest of accomplishments and possessions.
Lakeville Minnesota hosted a great celebration each summer. The activities of Pan-O-Prog could include everything from a cow pie tossing contest to the fireworks during the Fourth of July week-long celebration.
Over the years, I’ve chaired the Kiddie Parade, the Pet Show, and the Cow Pie Throwing Contest (which I have to admit the Mayor had a great sense of humor.).
In the summer of 1985, we enjoyed the mini-donuts and rides as we proudly showed Juan how a mid-sized community in the United States throws a celebratory party for the nation.
Saturday always marked the hours-long Pan-O-Prog Parade. Juan laughed with his Three Amigos as they watched the beautiful floats and bands march down the street. The parade was as magical as it always was and the boys were having the time of their lives catching candy thrown from the floats and tapping their feet to the music.
Where’s the Military Parade?
After several hours, the last unit moved past the curb in front of All Saints Catholic Church where we were sitting. The Three Amigos were psyched out to get to the fire hose competition down the street and to test out some of the rides.
Juan suddenly stood by my side. “Mommy, where are the soldiers and tanks? I wanted to see a real American Military Parade.”
As I stood looking down at this little boy I had grown to love as my own, I suddenly sank to my knees and took his hands in mine. My eyes began to mist as I saw the tears in his eyes. This little boy from Mexico had an impression of what a parade should look like and his disappointment was overwhelming.
American Ethics Shared
“Juancho, America is the strongest country in the world. We have all the tanks and missiles you could ever imagine.
American citizens understand the incredible force that exists within our military without a military parade to stress a program of propaganda meant to impress a world which has already seen the enormous power of the American military. For Americans, putting the military in our parades would be an admission that we support military confrontation.”
His eyes grew large and round as he listened to me.
“As citizens of the United States, we have chosen to show the heart of the men and women who came to this country for a better life in our floats and music. We cherish our differences and herald our hopes and dreams in our parades. In this country, we celebrate freedom and peace. That is what our parades stand for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Be Safe. Be Loved. Pass It On!
Footnote: You can find another article about the need for a military parade from a man who fought for this country when you read Jeffrey Lewis‘s take on military parades in the Washington Post