[Editor’s note: Robert L. Maginnis is a retired Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army. He is a contributor on occasion to the Fox News Network and Fox Business Network. Bob is a longtime friend, with whom I’ve worked in book-writing projects. He is still active in Pentagon matters regarding governmental affairs. – Terry James]
While driving home today I heard on the radio about President Trump’s call for a military parade, and then I heard all the grumbling from the left – “waste of money … no tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue.” I figuratively scratched my bald head and asked: “Why?” What’s the fuss about?
A military parade celebrates our history and the sacrifice that too few in this country can even imagine.
Then I thought back 49 years to my first military parade on the plain at West Point. It was a proud day with my 900 classmates, shaved heads and an oath to our country at Trophy Point. That was the first of hundreds of parades during our four years at the United States Military Academy. I especially recall the first parade as a plebe with the entire Corps of Cadets; what an honor to serve and to be part of such a rich tradition. I recalled the great men who came before me and their sacrifice for our freedom.
Parades make people think about their history.
As a plebe I marched in review past the Superintendent’s home the day he resigned from the Army because his former command was implicated in the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. I marched in the retirement parade in a little country town in Pennsylvania to honor the retirement of a four-star hero. I marched with the Corps into the Army-Navy games. We marched for Billy Graham, 5-Star General Omar Bradley and untold others.
Marching taught us history, discipline and esprit.
Once I became an infantry lieutenant in the regular Army, marching was a daily routine; but formal parades other than changes of command were rare. In Korea, I recall marching when President Ford came to visit, not far from the DMZ. I had Korean soldiers in my unit at the time and I was proud of their professionalism.
Marching reminded us that we were together, committed to stand against the tyranny to our north.
Years later I marched in the Patton Day parade in Luxembourg to celebrate America’s liberation of that country from the Nazis. That was a proud time for this young infantry commander marching in front of his 100+ infantrymen down the middle of a foreign city street. We had just come from the gravesite of General George Patton, old blood and guts, a real warrior that led many to a great victory. We celebrated America’s sacrifice and their freedom that day to the cheers of a grateful ally.
Jan, my wife, reminded me that we marched in parades while I was assigned to the 6th Infantry Division in Alaska. The best thing was being seen by my family and friends marching with my unit, and proud of the country we serve.
Get away from Washington, DC and big American cities, and our fellow countrymen still like a military parade because it reminds us all of the important things in life and why precious few still volunteer to defend our nation.
Now, every morning I arrive at the Pentagon at 0600, and as I approach the entrance, I can see in the distance hallowed ground where many are laid to rest. Parades take place there every day. Jets sprint overhead saluting the fallen pilots, and every day or so I can hear the muffled sound of cannon or rifle fire, a bugler sounding taps that echo across the hills at Arlington National Cemetery.
Parades with soldiers, grieving families, and a horse-drawn carriage with a flag-draped coffin proceeded by a riderless horse are gripping scenes of tradition and service and signs of sacrifice.
So, Mr. President, let’s have a parade.
For me, parades are special because I’ve experienced many; and they resurrect great, albeit sometimes sad memories. It’s a shame some fellow citizens can’t see past their ignorance to appreciate what a simple parade communicates to our nation and why it should be so meaningful.
God bless America!