As rain fell lightly in downtown Milford Sunday afternoon, people stood around the gazebo and Veterans Day Parade speaker Richard Platt discussed what it means to be a patriot.

Only about 100 people at most were scattered along the parade route for the 2 p.m. start of the annual march here to honor veterans. They carried umbrellas or stood under shop awnings to stay dry.

But there were enough people to surround the gazebo and to hear Platt, a former city historian, teacher and a veteran.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about patriotism, especially about how one should act when the National Anthem is played,” Platt said. “It started with African-American football players taking a knee when the Anthem is played, rather than standing at attention with a hand over their hearts.”

The protests started because of racial prejudice still evident in the country. Platt said the protests are understandable.

But, he added,  “unfortunately for them, the subject has been changed. We are no longer talking about violence against black people, or even about subtle actions that show that we still have farther to go.”

The subject is now respect for the flag and those who gave their lives for the country.

Platt said Americans should stand respectfully when the Anthem is played, remove their hats as the flag passes. But he added that those aren’t the only ways to show respect for the flag: In some situations protesting also shows respect for the flag and country.

“To me, real patriotism is doing things for our country that good citizens should do,” he said. “Taking part in the political process. Voting. Giving of our time to serve on the various boards and commissions for the betterment of our city, state and country. Advocating for various causes, showing up at hearings and testifying. And yes, serving in the armed forces to protect our nation is indeed a great example of patriotism.

“In addition, peaceful protest when one sees wrong or injustice, is a form of patriotism,” he continued. “We continue to want to make our country a better place. We are still a work in progress. We are still striving to form a more perfect union.”  

Platt said taking the knee during the National Anthem is a form of protest.

“As I said before, unfortunately, the subject has been changed so that perhaps some new form of protest must be found, because the discussion has moved away from the issues that started it,” he said. “We must still pay attention to the issues that brought forth this protest in the first place. Hate and intolerance still exist, sadly, in this great country.”

The post parade ceremony started with a prayer by The Rev. James Loomer, one that President Harry S. Truman once described as the same prayer he prayed when he was in high school, as a window washer, floor scrubber, and then as the 33rd president of the United States. “Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellow men.”

Mayor Ben Blake and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro also spoke during the short ceremony following the parade. Before members of the Fife and Drum Corps fired muskets into the sky and two high school students closed the event by playing Taps on their trumpets, Blake and DeLauro thanked the veterans who fight today or have fought to keep American principles alive.