Summary: Two Parades that week. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the walk down the Via Dolorosa.
There were two parades that day. The first was in the morning. Downtown was decked out in Red, White, and Blue bunting and American Flags. Yellow ribbons tied in oversize bows were wrapped around utility pools, parking meters and any object that couldn’t be moved. Tony Orland had only recently released the record, Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round the Old Oak Tree and the community had taken the words to heart.
The Daughtery boy was coming home today. His parents lived behind my grandparents and as a little boy I knew Bobby Daughtery. His younger brother was my age and I knew the circumstances but then, so did everyone else in town. Major Daughtery had been away a very long time but today, he was home and the town turned out to greet him.
The High School Band led the parade. White shoes, sharp creases, precise steps as they played over and over, Tie a Yellow Ribbon. Politicians in borrowed convertible waved at the crowd and we waved back. This was a day that we could all be congenial because it was a special, special day. After all, how often does a hero come home?
Finally, there he was sitting high on the back of convertible; smiling, waving, and really, he looked good. After six and half years it was amazing. We really didn’t yet understand the atrocities that the POW had endured in the Hanoi Hilton until months or even years later but I think we all knew that he had been brutalized beyond measure and here he was. He had endured. He was a real hero to the folks of my hometown.
What a day of celebration it was.
Maybe I should say, what a morning of celebration it was because there was another parade that day.
The car had all assembled hours earlier but at two o’clock the door opened and people made their way to the cars, started the engines, turned on the lights and waited.
So, the lead car pulled out followed by the hearse and several funeral cars packed with family. Then the parade began. Car after car, after car made its way across town to the cemetery because that day the Limmones boy had come home as well.
He too had been in Viet Nam. He too had been away for too long. He too had experienced a world that most could not and maybe should not even try to imagine.
I didn’t know the Limmones boy. I knew of his family. I knew he had graduated from the same High School I had graduated from, gone to the same move theaters, driven the same streets, cheered for the same football team, and call the same town home.
He had joined the Army and had gone off to serve. He didn’t understand the protests that he had seen outside the gates of Travis Air Force Base as he boarded the plane to Viet Nam. He didn’t get what was moral or immoral about the war. He just understood he was an American and it was his time to serve.
Understand this was not a war where our fallen heroes were honored upon their return. This was not a way where roadways were lined with veterans and other patriots waving flags to honor those fallen in the line of fire. Certainly, cars pulled to side of the road. Some men stepped outside their vehicle and remove their hats as the hearse passed but for the most part, Pvt. Limmones made his way to Woodlawn Cemetery in an unattended parade.