Parade For the Boss

We do not need a national military parade to display our strength. We know, and the world knows our armed forces present the most powerful military in history. Their deeds speak. People in other nations may parade more than we do, but I don’t want to hear about that. Hey, parading is not about competition, is it? Unless you count victory parades.

I love parades. Doesn’t everyone? My gut tells me Americans parade so much and so often, no one can know how many are taking place on any given day—unless there is a secret bureau of parades keeping track via social media posts.

For a brief time, I did not like parades. Decades ago, I arrived in town for a new job. Less than a month later, the boss “invited” his staff to a Chamber of Commerce Veterans Day breakfast. At breakfast, I learned he expected us to walk in the parade, which was to start soon. I was dressed for breakfast—in a restaurant—not for standing around on a cold, wet morning waiting to participate in the parade I had intended to watch—in proper shoes, coat and hat.

Community spirit in that town was palpable. People lined the streets for parades on every special day. Businesses and charities, and service clubs and scouts paraded with school bands. Close order drill teams, ROTC, and units from nearby military bases, national guard and reserve units marched with firefighters, EMTs, and police. But they were not military parades. The closest thing to an exception was a parade celebrating and honoring the first Gulf War warriors’ return home.

Community parades with military units marching along streets lined with stars and stripes are organized displays of love of country, but it is the energy and devotion to country among the people that matters every day.

I know the president admires those grand military parades in other countries, but I hope he will not impose one on our armed services, who must obey orders.

If he is determined to order a marching spectacular, I suggest he look instead to the executive branch. Each of the political appointees is beholden to the president for the job they hold. Surely, it will not inconvenience them to parade for the boss. I did not like it, but I did because I needed my job. I got over it.

If they choose not to—because there is something they want or need to do, like a wedding anniversary, a child’s ball game, or recital—they can say no. Being good Republicans, they can always find other work, especially now that the economy is great again.

Marching is not walking. Marching means cooperating and accepting your place as part of something bigger than yourself. It means working in sync, even with people with whom you disagree—or hate, and at a time you need to be doing something else. Lack of marching experience among appointees may present a problem. But they can learn on the job. Lack of experience did not prevent many of them from receiving their appointments.

If a parade comprising only executive branch appointees is not large enough or doesn’t measure up to the president’s desire for grand spectacle, I suggest he persuade the Senate and the House of Representatives to join in. Of course, they could not manage it without their staffs.

Unlike the current commander-in-chief and Congress, our military has nothing to prove—to anyone. However, both the executive and legislative branches have much to prove to Americans and the world.

Instead of a physical exhibition of our military’s weaponry and organizational competence, presidential appointees and Congress can take to the streets and turn the spectacle they already are into the greatest live TV special ever. Broadcasting it via the Armed Forces Network would be risky—especially the pre-parade activities—because we may not want our warriors to see firsthand how unorganized and uncooperative those two branches of government are, among themselves and with each other.

Senator David Perdue has said, “Personally, I would prefer not to do it. But he’s the president.

Senator, I encourage you to explain to the president why you prefer not to hold a national military parade. Please tell him those orderly, parading arrays of uniformed warriors and machines do not just happen because he wants them. Military parades take dedication to a common purpose, precise planning and cooperation, and a willingness to sacrifice ego and become one among thousands doing your assigned task—without personal glory.

 

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