I remember way back as a first-year ROTC cadet at the University of Wisconsin spending hours practicing marching — Forward march! Column left, march! Column right, march! Company halt! — for our appearance in the annual Memorial Day parade around Capitol Square back in the day.
What a pain, we'd complain to each other — and it was, especially when drill sergeants got in your face for messing up. But that's the least ROTC cadets could do to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands who had given their lives in service to the call of their country.
It becomes hard to understand, though, why Donald Trump would want full-fledged military troops and officers to spend weeks in marching practice so he can stage a parade in downtown Washington between the Capitol and the White House. I thought we had a shortage of troops because of Barack Obama's budget cuts.
I can hear the troops now: "We've got a lot better things to do."
"Well, of course the president who claimed bone spurs to dodge the Vietnam War wants the biggest, bestest military parade ever," commented Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.
But several of the conservative pundits are on board with a parade. The National Review's David French asked, Why not? In a recent column he listed a series of victories by our armed forces over the past 17 years — toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, deposing Saddam Hussein, destroying the ISIS caliphate — that a parade could honor.
Rich Lowry, the National Review's editor, wrote on Politico that we held parades after World War II and other wars and, contrary to suggestions from what he calls hysterical liberals, we didn't become a dictatorship.
But I liked the Chicago Tribune's libertarian columnist, Steve Chapman's comments the best.
"I'm willing to give Trump his parade under one condition," he wrote.
The parade should involve only troops who are coming home for good. Despite promising to end America's military adventurism, he added, Trump continues to send U.S. soldiers to endless conflicts around the world.
Americans once used grand military parades to celebrate wars ending. Let's bring back that tradition.
Now that would be an occasion to celebrate, not to mention the lives and money we'd save. I might even find my old marching shoes.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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