The year was 1998. I was the fearless leader for a group of energetic 9-year old Brownies. As leader, one of the challenges I faced was planning activities that the girls would find interesting, but also provide meaningful learning experiences.
A man in my neighborhood told me about Portland's annual Veterans Day parade. Himself a Vietnam vet, he made attending this parade with his family an annual tradition. The man remarked how nice it would be to have some young Scouts march in this event, as he had yet to see any.
I contacted the parade's organizer, and he welcomed my troop with open arms. I was told the only requirement for participation was to honor the veterans. No problem! This would be a great learning experience for my Brownies.
In the days leading up to November 11th, my troop worked on creating a banner. One of the moms had a great idea to decorate it with the girls' handprints. I bought a mini flag for each Scout to wave. We were set!
Portland weather in early November is usually not conducive to parades, but November 11th that year dawned clear and dry, but chilly. A few moms and I ferried our girls to the parade starting point. We lined up amidst the other participants, mostly veterans in uniform. I encouraged the girls to tell these vets "thank you" for their service to our country.
The parade itself was short, only a half mile in length (perfect for a group of young Girl Scouts). It terminated at a flagpole, erected by the adjacent funeral home. There were speeches, a band played patriotic songs, and we were treated to a military jet fly-over.
The girls loved being a part of the Veterans Day parade so much, for the next four years, it became an annual tradition. I spread the word amongst other Scout leaders I knew. The last year we participated, I was pleased to see several groups of Scouts - both boys and girls - proudly marching in this parade.
Although it has been many years since I've attended, an article in our local paper recently caught my eye. It said that this year would mark the 40th annual Veterans Day parade in Portland. Reading the article brought back memories of chilly, rainy Veterans Day mornings, huddling with my Girl Scouts, waiting for the parade to start. I really hope I made an impact on these girls, and that they too will always remember to honor the service men and women on Veterans Day.
(If you'd like more information, click here for the Portland, Oregon Veterans Day parade website)