I love a parade.
So, maybe I should be supportive of President Trump’s suggestion for a big military parade sometime later this year.
The president’s idea has not gotten universal approval. Some argue that the money spent for a parade would be better used to beef up our defensive capability.
On the other hand, parades have always been a part of the military experience. They serve a number of purposes, including armed forces’ public relations, acting as learning exercises for the troops, and providing an opportunity to build esprit de corps.
President Trump seems to have in mind something like the Bastille Day parade he saw in France when he visited President Macron last year. The shiny, well-dressed French soldiers and sailors apparently wowed our president.
That kind of parade would be fine, I guess, but I would rather the president have something other than the spit and polish version he saw in France or the dark, loaded-weapons filled parades of North Korea.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is “exploring different ways that he can highlight and show the pride that we have in the military, the people that have served and sacrificed to allow us all the freedoms that we have.”
So, maybe the president would consider a different kind of parade, one that would celebrate the rich experience and traditions of the American military and celebrate our country’s unique and progressive experience?
Instead of a corps of spit-and-polish soldiers, tanks and rocket launchers, imagine an event that might be more like a community holiday parade.
The leading elements of the parade could be still be traditional, with smartly attired soldiers, sailors and Air Force men and women, Marines and Coast Guard in small groups.
But they would be supplemented by other groups.
The parade could include veterans who served in recent conflicts, from Korea to Vietnam. It could recognize those who served across the Middle East, and even pay special respects to World War II veterans – especially since there will not be many more opportunities for us to honor the Greatest Generation in person.
Not to leave out important experiences that many Americans have as new recruits, the parade could feature a unit of brand-new inductees, illustrating just how much the training experience will benefit them.
A group of marching military men and women who were born in other countries would be a reminder of their important contributions to their adopted country. Wounded veterans could choose to participate in whatever way they elect, from bravely parading on crutches to riding atop a float, struggling and succeeding in being a part of our country’s life.
A parade that includes, honors and celebrates those who sacrifice so much would give us the opportunity to thank them for their service, their bravery and determination. It would provide an occasion to recognize the services’ role in expanding opportunities for people from all walks of life, and highlight their contributions to our nation’s defense. A parade should show diversity in practice, and further legitimize the roles of LGBT service personnel. Marching side-by-side, carrying flags of units and advocacy groups alike would allow the nation to recognize and accept the contribution of these soldiers and sailors.
Seeing families separated by distance brought together would celebrate the sacrifice of service members at home and abroad, asserting that the country has not forgotten them. It would celebrate and thank the many organizations that support these families while their loved ones are away.
Finally, to make this parade truly special and representative of the American military experience, the highest-ranking generals – and the president himself – might march in the parade rather than simply reviewing it from sheltered stands.