The annual Veterans Day weekend parade in York is not the biggest in the world. It is just a block and a half long, and heading north on Congress Street, the parade from start to finish took just 18 minutes.
But this small parade was great.
Because it showed the many faces of patriotism, and what it means to be an American in a small community, the day after Veterans Day.
There was probably 400 people along the route. There were almost as many American flags.
There were white people and black people and Hispanics and Native Americans. There were young and old, rich and poor, and they had no differences as Veterans Day parade passed by.
In the York Veterans Day parade you get Hailey Hutcherson, age 9, who made a flag sign for veterans and waved as the veterans went by, and in the parade marched her twin brother, Liam. Liam waved at the veterans along the side. Nobody ever was prouder to be in a parade than Liam as he beamed as he marched with his Boy Scout troop.
In the parade was the York Comprehensive High School marching band, stomping down the street, playing patriotic songs. They played "God Bless America" and the crowd sang the words as the band went by. Then there was the Navy JROTC from the high school.
"We are in other parades, but this is the one that shows the most love for our country," said Chandler Hall, 16, an eleventh-grader in the ROTC with the buzz cut to go along with it. "You honor and respect people who served in the wars."
Another ROTC member, Mark Douglas, did not even see his aunt, Jeanette Bozeman, cheering for him. Douglas was staring straight ahead, as he had been trained to do, while marching in the parade. He stood so straight and tall and proud.
Jeanette Bozeman's father, the late Ezell Bozeman of York, was wounded in Vietnam after being drafted.
"This parade makes me think of all he did for his country," Jeanette Bozeman said of her father.
All are welcome to participate in this annual parade, which organizer T.J. Martin of York, a Korean War prisoner of war, puts on each year. Martin said it was the largest parade with the largest crowd yet in the years it has been put on.
In York you get Bailey Moody, age 8, who wore a tutu and carried an American flag. There is no doubt which country this wonderful little girl cheers for.
"America is great and veterans are great," she said.
The parade is "terrific for downtown York," said Nick Browning, standing with little Bailey. "America at its finest."
In York for Veterans Day parade you get George Hammerle, 15 years old, standing with his mother along the route. His mother made a simple sign on poster board that said, "Thank You!"
"If you can't thank veterans who can you thank?" Tracy Hammerle asked. "They are the best. This parade is great."
Because in that parade were a couple dozen World War II veterans, and new war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan from Rock Hill's 178th Combat Engineer Battalion. Four of those guys, who spent much of past years cleaning roads of bombs, rode in the parade and were true stars.
Walking down the street from his house two blocks away, then standing there waving at the patriotism of his small community, was an Army veteran. He stood there and waved. Just part of the crowd who wanted to thank veterans just like himself.
His name is John Spratt. He spent 28 years in the U. S. Congress, until 2010, and here he is another Army veteran showing how much he loves veterans and York and America.
When the parade was over there was a program in the parking lot of Whitesides dry cleaners. The oldest veterans had seats. The younger stood, with the crowd.
One was Butch Glenn - a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
"A mine almost got me," said Glenn.
But a mine did not finish Glenn off, and he stood there with his wife and daughter and grandkids among the Boy Scouts and American flags and he spoke for them all when he said: "What a place we live in around here. There isn't any one way to say America is great. It just is."