Everyone gets their moment of fame, mine came a few years ago
during the Fourth of July parade in Moscow. Made the Boston papers
I did. Not for the ironic creativity of my float, but for its sheer
size. I took a motorcoach of senior citizens through Moscow during
The Parade. So naturally, we became a float. My driver even donned
his coat and straightened his tie for the occasion. The seniors
waved to the folks standing on grassy banks, the airhorn blew, and
the Boston Globe snapped a picture of us dwarfing all other entries
as we sailed through. I believe we called ourselves Beauty For All
We enjoy our little Fourth of July events. The Moscow Parade is
a good time to catch up with neighbors. The evening fireworks display
promises to dazzle. Martial music makes grown men and little boys
stand a little taller, without stopping to consider why. We eat
new peas, and too much watermelon. Men crack beers and spend the
evening being men over smokey grills. Another Fourth ends when we
wind our way home, the smallest dozing in car seats, bombs having
burst in air to the sound of ooo's and aaahh's.
"I love Vermont" wrote Calvin Coolidge, the only President
of the United States to be born on the Fourth of July, "because
of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate,
but most of all, because of her indomitable people."
We are part of a powerful tradition, we are. It was our people,
Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, who brought the first victory
to the fight for independence by seizing Fort Ticonderoga on May
10th of 1775. We fought the battle of Hubbardtown, On July 7th of
1777, setting the stage for Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga.
In battle we are dauntless. "There!" roared John Stark
at the Battle of Bennington. "There are the Redcoats; they
will be ours or tonight Molly sleeps a widow!" It was our men
at the Battle of Gettysburg who inspired General Doubleday to cry
"Glory to God, glory to God, see the Vermonters go at it!"
This after the First Vermont marched thirty two miles in a night
and a day to reach Gettysburg. The Second Vermont Brigade marched
132 miles in six days of southern swelter, arriving on July 1st,
a day ahead of their brothers, and in time to hear the order "Put
the Vermonters in front and close ranks behind them."
"The Crouching Lion" The French called Camels Hump. And
lions we are. "Ever since I arrived to a state of manhood,
and acquainted myself with the general history of mankind, I have
felt a sincere passion for liberty." Wrote Ethan Allen. A passion
which would translate into the Republic of Vermont, with the first
constitution to adopt universal manhood suffrage, the first constitution
to outlaw slavery.
Before there were flags to wave, or trumpets to sound, we were
there. Young men picked up flintlocks and marched away, to wage
war for liberty. General John Stark's forces demolished the British
barricades, he marched home to Molly a hero, dragging a canon behind
him; a trophy of war as a gift for his bride.
And left behind 247 dead men. You, who celebrate this day, are
not likely to be among their descendants. For they died before they
had sons. Before they had daughters to walk down an aisle, to give
her hand to another man's son. To Bennington, our men have gone.
To Cedar Creek and Anaheim. They've marched away to Normandy, to
Midway, and Khe Sanh. Names they are, carved on stone, they lie
as they died. Alone.
When the music plays and the fireworks blaze, stand up. Hold up
your children. Hold them up to that flash of gunpowder. Someone
else's son went to war. Someone else's son stood up before blazing
gunpowder, in mud and fire and terror and death; stood up on another
field, and died. So you can celebrate with your children pretty
bombs, bursting in air.
Stand up. Stand up for the men who came before you, who make us
who we are today. For today, we are a free people. Vermonters all.
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