By Alex Russell
The City of Falls Church is once again set to commemorate Memorial Day.
The 40th Annual Memorial Day Parade and Festival, beginning in the grounds near F.C. City Hall at 300 Park Avenue, will feature a Fun Run, a special ceremony in Veterans Plaza, a variety of food and crafts vendors, live music, and the annual parade, bringing together locals and those outside the City.
For the Little City, Memorial Day is a singular time where a multitude of organizations and businesses come out to show support for their community and to pay respect to those who gave their life in the service of their country.
The parade comes at the beginning of summer, with warmer weather, brighter skies and a greater sense of commotion, as nature appears to “wake up” after an erratic winter.
Those who have participated in the festival in previous years (and who will be coming back this year) are clear in their conviction to honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces, but some, like David Crance, cannot help but look ahead, too.
Crance, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9274 Chaplain of two years and member since 2009 and Falls Church Kiwanis Little League (FCKLL) Tee Ball and Fall Coordinator, underscores that there are “so many people who never came home” from foreign service and, consequently, making sure that “the efforts…the sacrifices” that they made are acknowledged and “are getting remembered.”
(The Greater Falls Church Veterans Council and the local American Legion Post 130, which Crance is also a part of, will be part of the festival this year too.)
Talking more about what Memorial Day in F.C. means to him, Crance explained that to him, it represents “a chance to help others understand what has gone before.”
“My grandfather served with the 29th Infantry Division…[he] landed on D-Day in Europe,” and after coming home, “worked a tobacco farm for 30-some years.” For Crance, his grandfather’s resolution, determination, and work ethic still inspire him today. “[To] still come back, busted up, and still run a farm, raise a family…remembering all that is what [Memorial Day] means to me.”
Crance views Falls Church as “one of the last towns this side of the beltway…with [a strong] sense of community.”
“This is a town…where you can see the Mayor on the street.” He also reflected how partisan politics end in the City “when you’re on the street. We’re really lucky here with that stuff.”
In terms of the way the City commemorates the holiday, Crance expressed nothing but approval. “Everyone’s involved…[the] first time I saw it, I was surprised [at] how big it was…the local community puts in so much effort.”
As a coach in the F.C. Little League, his favorite aspect of the parade is “watching all the kids march. They are part of something big.” (In past years, the kids would throw candy at bystanders; considering the density of certain hard candies, “the kids run and hand over the candy now.”)
For Crance, the youth of Falls Church make up a link between what has come before and the positive possibilities inherent in the future. He believes that it is important to “put time in with our youth.”
“Getting the kids to understand” and appreciate “the sacrifices that were made,” especially in the kind of community setting that the parade and festival provide, is very important to Crance.
Community involvement, a shared sense of purpose and lending a hand to those in need are often cited as core values stemming especially from the generation of Americans who, like Crance’s grandfather, fought in World War II. “[It was] the defining event of their lives and their generation,” reflects Crance.
Besides honoring those no longer with us and helping his community’s youth understand the importance of Memorial Day, Crance sees the annual event, where a large variety of businesses, organizations, and non-profit groups will be present, a moment to pause and reflect. “What can I do in my community that will mean something 30 years from now? What can I do in my community, at my level, for a better future?”
“Everybody can do something small…coach a soccer team, volunteer at the library. An hour here or two hours there” can, to Crance, really help “make the future better.” And he cannot stress the value of all this within the context of a community like Falls Church.
“People forget,” he explains, how a local function or volunteer-run group can dissolve “quickly…due to the lack of people putting in the time and effort to carry [something] forward.”
And with all of this in mind, he keeps one eye on the present, appreciating the efforts put forth by his community to highlight an important day of national remembrance, and one eye on tomorrow, knowing full well that today’s kids and youth have the potential to keep the community moving forward.
To learn more about VFW Post 9274, visit vfwpost9274.org. For more information about American Legion Post 130, visit post130.org. To learn more about the Greater Falls Church Veterans Council, go online at gfcvcouncil.homestead.com.