York Jersey Giants returned from their Super Bowl victory to a planned hero’s welcome in the Big Apple, complete with ticker tape, open top convertibles, keys to the city and all the trimmings. They should be justifiably proud of their accomplishment, and their fans deserve a quick victory lap to mark the occasion. But, as Doug Mataconis notes over at Outside the Beltway, isn’t there another parade which we’re still waiting for? He’s making reference to an article by Kate Taylor.
At least one large city, St. Louis, has gone ahead with a parade for Iraq veterans, on Jan. 28. And on Monday, the White House announced that President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, would hold a dinner on Feb. 29 to honor troops who had served in Iraq.
But the Defense Department, noting that American soldiers are still fighting in Afghanistan, says it is too soon for a celebration with the recognition and symbolism of a New York City parade.
Col. David Lapan, a spokesman for Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “We simply don’t think a national-level parade is appropriate while we continue to have America’s sons and daughters in harm’s way.”
The Pentagon’s position doesn’t really make sense. Iraq and Afghanistan are, after all, separate conflicts fought in separate countries for very different reasons. While there’s no small degree of overlap between veterans of the two conflicts, it seems somewhat silly to say that veterans from the Iraq War shouldn’t be honored until the conflict in Afghanistan is over, or as long as American troops are “in harm’s way,” which seems pretty darn open ended to me.
That’s certainly not the way we’ve handled these things in the past. When the V-E Day came in May 1945, the nation didn’t wait to celebrate that achievement until V-J Day had come three months later (and few people had reason to know that the end of the war in the Pacific Theater might be that near at the time). In fact, on June 10th, 1945, just a month after the end of the conflict in Europe, New York City held a ticker-tape parade for General Dwight D. Eisenhower while the conflict in the Pacific still raged.
For starters, this makes sense. Yes, we are still in Afghanistan, (and in Iraq, depending upon who you ask and how you define “in” I suppose) but is there ever really a bad time to honor returning heroes? Perhaps more to the point, if you are honoring their service and sacrifice more than some deadline date for “victory” (define that as you wish) then there’s no reason such a national celebration couldn’t celebrate the accomplishments of our veterans of Afghanistan at the same time.
Further, given the current system of rotating duty assignments, many of the veterans coming home have already served in both conflicts anyway, so the lines are fairly blurred. If it’s a question of funding, the lion’s share of this will be put up at the city, state and local level anyway. Besides, in a time when so many are feeling rather glum about the state of the nation and its future, everyone could use a reason to feel good and this might be just the ticket. Honestly, I don’t know why there is even an argument about this.