President Donald Trump’s demand for a large military parade on the scale of those popular tourist attractions in Europe drew the expected barking from liberal media dogs.
Too flattering to Trump.
Of course, those on the left would object if Trump gave a child a lollypop, claiming he contributed to the tyke’s tooth decay or diabetes.
I confess to getting misty-eyed during the second verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and watching Youtube videos of Bastille Day parades in Paris which apparently planted this idea in Trump’s noggin. The internet also gave me glimpses of Trooping of the Colors in England. Emotions may cloud my view, but what I do see may still illuminate the discussion.
During my time in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M and service in the US Army, I marched in about 50 parades. Each and every one was a pain in the fallen arches. Despite never meeting a soldier who welcomed the idea of a parade, the concept of a “Grand Review” to mark Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day or Veteran’s Day may have merit.
It’s just that if Trump wants something on the European model, he’s approaching this parade idea from the wrong perspective.
Certainly, Les Pionniers de la Légion étrangère with their full beards, sharpened axes over their shoulders and leather aprons singing a Foreign Legion marching song as they pass in front of the French President make a stirring sight. But what works in Paris does not play well here and fails to capture the American spirit.
Richard Nixon also fell for the European costume opera. Tricky Dick wanted special uniforms similar to those found in European capitals for military personnel assigned to the White House. The idea went over like MREs at a state dinner.
While the thought of Trump sitting on a horse for hours like Queen Elizabeth during similar London parades has some humorous appeal, a huge difference separates the two heads of state. It’s one Trump fails to grasp and what fans valid concerns by his critics. Elizabeth is the embodiment of the nation. She receives the salute on behalf of the nation. Trump fills no such role in this country and any attempt to drape this mantle on his slumping shoulders is politically disastrous and borderline treasonous.
Let me be clear. Trump can have his parade, as far as I am concerned, he just needs to look closer to home for a prototype.
When you think of American military parades, what do you visualize?
The picture of the GIs, pulled fresh from the fighting line, marching down Les Champs-Élysées during World War II comes to my mind. It turns out historical precedence exists for this parade.
Towards the end of the Civil War, the New York Times complained about a lack of “pomp and circumstance.” A few weeks after Lee surrendered; the paper got its wish.
The “National Review of the Armies” took two days. On May 23, 1865, the Army of the Potomac passed in review. On May 24, the Army of the West after walking from Tennessee to Atlanta, to Savannah and then to Washington, D.C. paraded for six hours.
“Sherman’s Army passed in review before the President of the United States in Washington. It was the last act in the rapid and wonderful Drama of the four gallant corps. With banners proudly flying, ranks in close and magnificent array, under the eye of their beloved Chief, and amid the thundering plaudits of countless thousands of enthusiastic spectators,” George W. Nichols reported.
Another witness described them as lean, tan, in sun-bleached uniforms marching down Pennsylvania in route step. “The Army of the West, the finest fighting force in the world, marched past.”
Brette Harte was moved to scribble a few lines of verse at the sight capturing, perhaps, another dimension to the occasion.
“And all night marched the nation’s dead.
With never a banner above them spread.”
Using our own history as model and not some fancy dress European carnival, we can create something worth having.
Some of the US ceremonial units with period costumes should participate, but the bulk of the troops should be in ACUs with full “battle rattle,” wearing helmets and carrying their arms. Pile them onto Pennsylvania Avenue and send them past the reviewing stand.
The purpose of the Trump parade should not be for the troops to salute the president, but for the nation through its president to salute the troops, both living and dead. If Donald could grasp that concept, this parade idea might fly.
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