I just love Scottish festivals – the wail of the bagpipes, the highland dancing, the heavy games, the sheep herding dogs and cold beer on a hot Labor Day weekend. This year, there was one moment that stuck with me more than the rest, and it happened during the grandstand ceremony.
For the first time, the LA Scots pipe and drum band joined forces with the Marine Bad San Diego for precision marching and well-played music. They were then joined by the massed bands from all over the country, lining up on the dirt track to entertain the Pleasanton fairgrounds grandstand. The music included a rousing rendition of Scotland the Brave and the moving melody of Amazing Grace, which still gives me chills every time I hear it from the bagpipes.
The moment came when the announcer said “And now we will hear the anthems from each branch of the service!” As the assembled band belted out each one, all the men and women who served in each military branch were invited to stand up in a proud display of patriotism.
There were quite a few representatives in the audience from the biggest branches – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Then they played the Coast Guard song “Semper Paratus (Always Ready.)” I scanned the crowd, wondering if anyone would stand… after all, it IS the smallest branch. What are the odds?
Five or six rows in front of us, a grey-haired man leaned forward on his knotty wooden cane. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and slowly rose out of his chair. He must have been in his eighties from the look of him. As the music began to play, I watched him get his balance. The curve in his spine straightened right out as he lifted his chin and lifted his arm to salute. He remained at full attention until the music stopped.
I thought to myself, “Wow… this man must have served in World War II, one of the Greatest Generation. He most likely lost many friends as he defended our country… and I imagined it was those fallen brothers he was saluting at that moment. I took off my hat, covered my heart, and did my best to stand up just as straight and tall.
With the tenth anniversary of September 11th this weekend, I am reminded of all the men and women who stand up to serve in our name. From the forces that liberated Europe in the 40’s, to the Seal team that took out Bin Laden, to the future forces that will protect us from the next threat to our shores… I say keep standing tall. You have my undying respect and admiration.