Real people, not publicity and pomp.
This is a 1953 snapshot of the Bunker Hill Day Parade, one of the oldest processions in American history. The event is held each year in Charlestown, an ancient part of Boston, not so much in celebration of a noteworthy battle from the Revolution, but one of the greatest shows of community.
To this day, folks come out of the woodwork to see the parade. Kids line the sidewalks. Traffic is rerouted for miles. Anyone who parked on the route wasn’t likely to drive off until late afternoon. The Bunker Hill Day parade is a lot like any other procession you might remember from your hometown. There were flags, music, lots of lively conversation, bands, and plenty of smiles and waves. The American parade is a moving, pulsing vein in the fabric of our community.
Active and veteran military personnel march in parades. They wear crisp uniforms. They have honor guards with flags and rifles. Some have long-lasting memories of old wars. Some have fresh memories of new ones. They muster in their units, moving proudly over crosswalks and intersections, under the blare of fire truck sirens and the cheers of families. They are always welcome anywhere.
Recently, President Trump set his sights on a grand parade in our nation’s capital. Such an event would be a media circus, a show of strength for all the world to see. . . and undoubtedly a waste of time and resources. Various news outlets have already interviewed active and veteran military personnel to poll their opinions, and the responses are rather poignant. Former Navy Seal Robert J. O’Neill tweeted the event as “third world bullshit.” The Washington Post noted that a large-scale demonstration has not been seen since the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and that day involved thousands of personnel and cost millions of dollars.
There are other points to avoiding a grand affair to which the commander-in-chief may be unaware:
Time is not to be wasted. A military needs to manage its time appropriately. The men and women assigned to a gargantuan procession must keep to training schedules, combat exercises, school programs, deployment timetables, and of course, any chance they have to see their families. Unless you’re assigned to a ceremonial unit like the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment, you don’t have time for a parade.
Money is not to be wasted. The money needed for transportation, staging, fuel, food, lodging, security, uniforms and all the other fixings for a Mardi Gras-style bonanza would be burned in a single day. This isn’t Black Friday, when the cash spent can be used to stimulate the economy. More critically, the money could be better used for jet fuel, medicine, ammunition, training programs, equipment, spare parts, diesel fuel, rations, bottled water, payroll, and veterans benefits.
Power is not to be wasted. The best public demonstration of American resolve under the Trump presidency was last April, when 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles ruined Syria’s Shayrat air base—a note for Hitler-in-training Bashar al-Assad to refrain from using chemical weapons on his people. The operation highlighted our interests in the region, although we have much to do to settle Russian military involvement, eject al-Assad, and stop the greatest exodus of refugees of our time. Missions like the 2017 Syrian strike should be carefully planned and executed. They require the greatest attention to detail, with tight intelligence and even tighter discipline. A world-class military is capable of extraordinary feats in the modern age. . . but its power is best reserved for the right moment.
Parades, Mr. President, are a time-honored tradition. In their best presentation, they include not just the military, but elements of the whole country. Children are there. So are the elderly. People come out in droves to celebrate much more than the visual representation of their patriotism. The Bunker Hill Day parade, like other parades around the nation, cost much less than a single moment of military pomp and circumstance, and yield far more benefits to America.
Photo: Boston Public Library Flickr collection