“We simply don’t think a national-level parade is appropriate while we continue to have America’s sons and daughters in harm’s way.”
That is what Col. David Lapan, then spokesman for Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2012 responding to calls for a ticker-tape parade in New York City to mark the end of the second Iraq war.
Following the return of sovereignty to the nation of Kuwait, and the U.S. and allied forces victory in the first Persian Gulf War, returning American veterans were greeted with a ticker tape parade in Manhattan. Large scale national celebrations of victory and truce also followed the announcements of victory over Japan (VJ Day) and victory in Europe (VE Day) in the aftermath of World War II.
But largely since the Korean conflict, celebrations of our military might and nation’s military have become more a fixture of local and regional celebrations of the Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and other dates of significance.
Marching thousands of armed soldiers followed by rows of rolling tanks and missiles have long been much more the province of Hitler’s Germany, and authoritarian led countries such as Russia, China and North Korea. We now know that during the later days of the Cold War, as the then U.S.S.R.’s system began to internally implode, the parades marched on. Silo shells were frequently empty and repainted as missiles, often with no payload. Large tanks and other technology on display were regularly rigged to minimally function in damaged equipment recovered from multiple battlefields.
While on a recent state visit to France, hosted by President Emmanuel Macron and his first lady, President Donald Trump and our first lady, Melania Trump, sat in the review stand during France’s Bastille Day, a holiday and military parade celebrated there on the 14th of July since 1880. President Trump was impressed, and now he wants a similar parade and annual tradition stateside. The president has pressed this request on our Joints Chief of Staff since his return stateside this summer, and reportedly not long since the start of 2018, our generals, though initially resistant, are relenting and plans for a major parade in Washington, D.C., are underway.
If we truly want to honor our nation’s military and veteran communities, perhaps let’s ask them first what matters to them and move in those directions. Some suggestions:
Finish Fixing the Veteran’s Administration: Following the lead of Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, let’s establish ongoing funding for the Veteran’s Choice Act, allowing veterans to select and receive treatment outside of the VA Healthcare system for any need, treatment or procedure with a longer than 30-day wait time. Focus on head trauma injuries and the PTSD cases coming home with hundreds of thousands of younger veterans, now surviving the battlefield, but finding it harder and harder to reintegrate back into society upon their return home.
Honor Existing Promises Made: Emulating the work of private organizations like the USO and ESGR (Employers’ Support for the Guard and Reserve), make a higher priority of training and hiring returning military service personnel and veterans. Our nation is facing shortages among multiple categories of first responders, as well as an ongoing nursing shortage. These career paths have some training overlap, particularly among medics and service branch law enforcement personnel.
Care for Military Service Families and Children: With low pay and increasing percentages of active duty and reserve personnel positioned overseas, it is frequently their families who also suffer during deployment. Give veteran families priority for housing opportunities through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA, as well as Pell Grants for college education and lower interest rate federally guaranteed grants and loans for furthering education after service, along the lines of the G.I. Bill.
Though our nuclear arsenal and several other weapon systems are in the process of being updated, and some replaced, it seems strange to consider moving active and loaded missiles off of submarines and out of missile silos, in this unsafe world we live in, simply to fulfill a president’s desire to play show and tell on the world stage.
Mr. President, let’s celebrate and honor commitments made to our veterans and our men and women in uniform, but let’s leave expensive, time intensive and poser parades to others. We don’t need a parade to tell the rest of the planet that America’s military is great again. That is at least one aspect of our national heritage which has seldom been in question since WWII.
Bill Crane is a senior
communications strategist who
began his career in broadcasting and has worked at the state capitol and in Washington in both
political parties. Contact him