Armed Forces Day is nearly upon us, and every year, that makes me think of one thing: riding atop a firetruck all summer long, waving a pageant wave, while wearing a matronly navy blazer/khaki skirt/white turtleneck/navy pumps/jaunty American flag scarf combo.
When I was a senior in high school, I attended teas, shook hands with community leaders, and donned that special outfit as part of the Armed Forces Festival Ambassador Program. One essay, a set of headshots, a lot of events around town, and a speech about an immigrant’s experience later, and I had placed in the competition and was bound to a summer of smiling until my cheeks hurt while I rode around all the local parades. The main event, though, was the Armed Forces Day Parade.
In my heavily military hometown of Bremerton, Washington, Armed Forces Day is a big deal — we have the longest-running and largest Armed Forces Day parade in the nation. It began in 1948, two years before the holiday was federally recognized. Today, marching bands, local clubs, pageant winners, and military entries all converge for a celebration of those who’ve served our country. This year, it kicks of at 10 a.m.; for more information, click here.
I’ll be traveling on the big day this year, but I’ll think fondly of the tough maneuver that was climbing on top of a firetruck in a pencil skirt (no easy feat while trying to be ladylike) and sweltering in that blazer (we came so close to convincing the director to let us wear American flag T-shirts and capris instead; alas, no dice), but I’ll think even more fondly of the servicemen and women for whom the day is named.
(If the photo above isn’t vintage enough for you, check out these from parades gone by from the ’50s to ’70s).