Washington, D.C., has been embroiled in a Veterans Affairs hospital scandal just in time for Memorial Day. All eyes have been on the care veterans get or don’t get at the nation’s VA hospitals. What isn’t getting any press is the annual parade held to celebrate the heroism and sacrifice of our troops.
It doesn’t matter if you thought the wars were warranted or if you feel our society has become too militaristic. Facts are facts, and individual men and women have given up a lot to serve their country. They should be honored, and the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., does just that.
Hosted by football announcer Mark Kessler and talk personality Blanquita Cullum, it is sponsored by the American Veterans Center. Sometimes we stop and honor the sacrifice people make. Memorial Day is one, and anniversaries such as D-Day are the other.
In less than two weeks, President Obama and others will be going to France to honor the men of D-Day, as this is the 70th anniversary of the landing. Our World War II vets are dying, and in 10 years we will be lucky to even a few left.
This Memorial Day, the Grand Marshall is Col. Richard Cole, who was a “Doolittle Tokyo Raider” and is only one of the four surviving of 80 men who took part in the 1942 raid on Japan. Memorial Day is to remember all veterans, including those who are not living. The parade this year begins with direct linage to people who fought in the Revolutionary War as well as FREED Ladies, who portray unknown ladies who made contributions to the Civil War. They are a group formed though the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C. To make sure their forefathers are not forgotten are two groups, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Sons of Confederate Veterans.
This year, there has been a myriad of articles and books about World War I. The war began in 1914, 100 years ago, although the United States did not enter the war until April 1917. To honor the veterans of World War I, this year’s parade features a World War I ambulance, which was reconfigured from a Ford Model T and was the only fire engine known to survive from war.
This parade began when the National World War II Memorial was dedicated only 10 years ago. It seems amazing that there was no major parade to honor our veterans in the nation’s capital before the dedication, but this parade is so inclusive of all our veterans, it’s making up for lost time.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Tuskegee Airmen at the time of President Obama’s inauguration. Although most of them are not able to walk a parade route, they have joined this parade. There were 16,000 men and women who made up the Tuskegee Airmen’s group during World War II, and this was before Harry Truman integrated the armed services. Sons and daughters of Pearl Harbor survivors are also taking place in the parade. Japanese-American veterans are also marching, and they also served in World War II, although many Americans are unaware of their contributions.
We can’t forget how the veterans of Vietnam were treated when they came home. Many of these men were drafted and had no choice but came home to an unwelcoming nation. Today we understand the mistakes we made in not treating them fairly.
We have veterans of the last Iraq War and Afghanistan, but so many people forget the people who served in the first Iraq War. In addition to their presence, the government of Kuwait helped sponsor the parade to honor them.
We also can’t forget active-duty troops. They are not yet veterans, but they will be. America has a duty to honor them and to care for them, too. No one wants to be forgotten or to have service and sacrifice taken for granted.
The Moment of Remembrance takes place on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. in each time zone across the U.S. It is a good time to honor those who served from the Revolutionary War to now. That is what Memorial Day is about, and the parade takes us to those moments so we remember.
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