When I was about eight-years-old, I was still living in Germany. My uncle took me to see a military parade in our town. That was almost 60 years ago. I don’t remember what the occasion was, and it likely doesn’t matter. What I do remember is something that has been with me all of these years. I didn’t know then exactly what all of those machines and men with guns did but I knew that they could hurt you. I remember fear. I remember the absolute fear that those machines instilled in me. I saw massive pieces of iron rolling along. I closed my eyes and could hear the roar of the engines and the gnawing of the cleats, the stomp of the boots. When I opened my eyes, they were still there steadily rolling on in what seemed like an endless line. We left the parade, but I could still hear the sounds of the military might grinding and pounding away. And today, I can still hear them.
Of course, in the years since then I have been to other military parades as well as seeing them on the news and I’ve gained knowledge that I didn’t have as a child. In too many cases, the purpose of the parades was not to display military might to the world, but to remind the population what they face if they chose to oppose the regime. It is certainly evident that none of these events displayed anything more than a tiny fraction of the total military capabilities and is likely of no interest to other nations.
From a realistic standpoint, in today's technologically oriented world I doubt that there is a foreign government, friendly or otherwise, that does not know what our military strength and capabilities are. I would expect that they have a fairly accurate account of what we have and what we can do with it.
The idea of a military parade in Washington or any other large city to me is an unnecessary exercise, a costly maneuver at a time where that money and resources are needed elsewhere, which is most of the time. The idea of this being to honor the military is ludicrous. How do we honor them by making them participate in a futile exercise, by taking them away from their other duties, by having them participate in someone else’s fantasy? If our leadership wants to have a midlife crisis or are worried about their masculinity, maybe they should go out and buy a new sports car and get a girlfriend, but don’t use our soldiers as your pawns for your own glorification.
We indeed should honor our military personnel. We should do it in a meaningful manner by reminding them that we are grateful and that we care. If a parade is truly the answer, may I suggest a few scenarios:
How about a parade through Arlington where you walk behind the caisson? But walk quietly and with respect as you pass my father’s grave. How about a parade of politicians going through the various VA facilities and looking for ways to improve the treatment of our service personnel? How about a parade of bureaucrats looking under bridges and in the woods to find homeless vets and get them the help they need?
Since the creation of this nation, people have fought and died to make us great. Not only to protect our freedom but to protect the concept of what we are as a nation. Our approach to simple and basic concepts like freedom, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. We taught the world that there is a better way. We honor those that have served and those that perished by living up to those ideals. We thank them when we take care of our children, our system of government, our natural heritage, our people. We honor them when we stand, not to watch a parade, but to be a part of one. A parade of citizens working to maintain the American dream, for all, equally.