Veterans Are Divided On Response To Trump's Desire For Military Parade

Feb 7, 2018
Originally published on February 7, 2018 6:49 pm
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DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: And I'm David Welna in Washington. At first, President Trump's desire to parade the military through Washington did not strike former Marine Sergeant and Iraq veteran John Hoellwarth as the best use of the Pentagon's resources.

JOHN HOELLWARTH: But the more I think about it, the more I think that it's maybe not such a terrible idea.

WELNA: Hoellwarth is the spokesman for AMVETS, a group that advocates for military veterans. He thinks a big military parade could inspire more Americans to join the armed forces.

HOELLWARTH: We may not be able to sustain an all-volunteer force 10, 20 years from now with the way the numbers are going unless we do something as a nation to kind of put them on display and make people want to serve.

WELNA: Fernando Rivero is a Navy veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now commands Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion, and he, too, thinks a military parade may not be such a bad idea.

FERNANDO RIVERA: The question is, you know, how? What size is appropriate, and what do you call it? If you call it a victory parade, you better have a victory.

WELNA: For Aaron O'Connell, who also served in Afghanistan and now teaches history at the University of Texas, that's the problem.

AARON O'CONNELL: It's hard to imagine what an end of that war would look like, and that's what parades are for. They celebrate the end of a war in victory. We haven't had one in 17 years because we're fighting a war that doesn't have an end in sight.

WELNA: The proposed parade was not as unexpected to military budget expert Todd Harrison as the Pentagon's apparent lack of pushback.

TODD HARRISON: They've said so many times how military readiness is being harmed and how they are falling behind in maintenance and training activities, and this does nothing to further the readiness of the military.

WELNA: Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, an outspoken critic of President Trump, lost both legs flying an Army helicopter in Iraq. The proposed parade, she says, reeks of what a third-world dictator would want.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH: We have a country where we are currently at war. We have a country where we have significant budgetary challenges. Why would we send the resources to hold a parade? You know, it has nothing to do with his lack of military service, but more to do with his lack of judgment to think that this is appropriate.

WELNA: But Joe Davis, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, says it might do the nation good if the parade were held November 11, Veterans Day, which this year marks the centennial of the end of World War I.

JOE DAVIS: The war to end all wars, World War I, obviously did not end all wars. But, you know, for people to recognize it, even though it's been a hundred years, we need to be able to salute our military and salute our veterans.

WELNA: A parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, he adds, is always a good thing to have. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.