Every year, the American Legion, of which I am a proud member, participates in the Fourth of July parade that starts in Clarksville, Maryland, and ends up in southern Columbia, a distance of a couple of miles. Last year’s parade was cancelled because of the pandemic, so I was pleased to be able march this year.
I especially enjoy marching beside my American Legion compatriots. We veterans are becoming fewer over time, especially those of us who saw combat. I sense a feeling of brotherhood among my fellow Legion members unlike any other bonds I have. These men and women put their lives on the line for the good of others. I feel singularly honored to be among them.
And yet I am unique among them. My time in combat came after, not during, my military service (army). During my many years of supporting U.S. and friendly forces in combat on the battlefield with signals intelligence, I was a civilian. Granted I operated under cover as military. I pretended to be an enlisted man in whatever unit I was supporting so that the enemy would never discover that they had a spy in their midst.
When I tried, some years ago, to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I was refused membership because during my time in combat, I was not in uniform—I was a civilian. The American Legion, on the other hand, welcomed me with open arms. Members assured me that I was one their heroes because of my many times in combat.
So it is with the American Legion, not the VFW, that I march every Fourth of July. This year’s was beyond doubt the most difficult parade for me. For the first time, I had trouble keeping up with the pace of the other marchers. My eighty-plus years are catching up with me, whether I deny it or not. Next year, I’ll have to ride in one of the military vehicles.
So be it. My pleasure and my honor are to be there with my brothers and sisters in arms expressing my fealty to my beloved country. I’ll do it every year for as long as I can.