By Bob Bekins

April 2021

Fifty years ago, I had the privilege to belong to an elite military group – the Navy Blue Jacket Choir.  It was summer in San Diego, and I was finishing up bootcamp.  After auditioning, I became a member.  Like any musical group we had rehearsals, and there were many things to care for.  Our performances were at Chapel and other venues.  The highlight of each week was the graduations on Friday when other recruits left to join their ships, schools, or other fighting companies headed to Vietnam.

We took great care to assure our uniforms were beyond the white delivered by the base laundry and that our shoes were shined to sparkling perfection.  When we marched in very close order it was almost blinding to be in the 90-man drill.  As we neared a street, we would post outlying guards to halt any vehicular traffic that might disrupt the progress of our corps.  These guards would stand at a radical, at-ease position with feet apart, back arched to 40 degrees, and an outstretched, white gloved hand demanding the cars to halt.  We sang patriotic songs as we moved; it was truly impressive to watch and listen to this handpicked group.

When I left for electronics school and then my first ship, I was no longer a part of that splendid body, but the memories are still with me.  I was part of the parade.

These days, many of the folks in my age bracket are bemoaning the conditions in our country, the United States of America.  I can appreciate their consternation.  Having struggled for many years to make the country better by serving in the military, teaching, policing, fighting fires, building homes or schools, holding an office in government or on a volunteer basis, their complaints are understandable.   There comes a time when we are no longer directly involved in the effort.

When we are still engaged, just like the Navy Choir, we march in formation with others who have reasonably similar goals, and a lot gets accomplished.  We may even find ourselves in a management position leading a great effort.  Then that day comes when we are no longer in the parade.  It is a profound change, and often it is hard to adjust.  The parade goes on though. 

If you are still in the parade, good for you!  Keep up the good works in which you believe.  This is not about your age because we hear all the time about women and men that are still at it many years after others have quit.  If you are standing on the sidewalk and watching the parade go by, do your best to encourage the ones who continue to march.  Cheer every group but cheer the loudest for those you prefer.  If you still want to contribute, time and funds are needed not just for the groups but also for the individuals on their route.  As always, do what you can to make our nation better.  Do what you can right where you are today.

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