The only redeeming aspect of President Trump’s notion of a military parade in Washington, D.C., this fall on Veterans Day, intended to rival the French Bastille Day he witnessed last summer, is that it would fall on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War on Nov. 11, 1918. Not that the centennial was the initial thought, though.
As symbolic as it might be, the $30-million budget forecast for the parade (might the amount increase?) would be better spent on actual needs than on pageantry.
It may come as a surprise for the more than 90 percent of Americans who have not served in uniform that a parade is a lot of work, expense and “hurry up and wait” for the people who have to put it on and be in it – overwhelmingly, lower-ranking troops. In more than 30 years in the Army, from buck private to colonel, I participated in quite a number of them. Something my comrades or I looked forward to? Not especially.
In my last assignment, I served as a senior operations and training officer for a joint Army-Air National Guard headquarters in another state. In March 2003, the burgeoning Iraq war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was drawing war-fighting resources from operations in Afghanistan that began October 2001 (and continue today). Our command was scraping dollars together to mobilize our National Guard soldiers and airmen as was Montana and every other state.
From that point continuing to this very day, dollars for active-duty and reserve component operations and training have been inadequate across all services. That knowledge was justification in significant part for the massive $1.3 trillion budget recently signed into law by the president. We’ve seen ships collide, aircraft crash and troops poorly supported in combat operations because operational funding is not what is needed in this unbelievably more-complex, war-fighting environment.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines perform and survive in direct result of the quality of their training and equipment. I’ve conveyed to our Montana congressional delegation my belief that the $30-million-plus would be better spend elsewhere than a parade.