Opinion: The Troops Don't Want A Parade

Jake Hughes
February 07, 2018 - 11:58 am

(Image Courtesy of Dreamstime)

Categories: 

"I feel bad for whatever poor units get stuck with that Drill and Ceremony nightmare."

An active duty Coast Guardsman told me that when I asked a veteran/military Facebook group what they thought of the idea of a huge military parade. A little back story: from what I have gathered, when President Trump visited France for their Bastille Day parade, known for a huge military showing, he was inspired. He told the Pentagon to "explore" the idea of a parade of our own, one that would showcase our military strength, honor our troops, and impress the world. Many have said this would be a great way to support the troops.

There's just one small problem: most troops don't want a parade.

"This is going to be a logistical nightmare, I feel awful for whoever is in charge of coordinating the event," says active duty Sailor Morgan Dorr, and I agree with him. The president specifically said he wants "tanks rolling down the street." Some of you may know I was a tanker in the Army for six years. Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to get even a platoon—that's four—M1A2 Abrams into Washington DC? Your typical M1A2 weighs about 69 tons, holds around 400 gallons of fuel, gets gas mileage around a whopping 1.67 miles per gallon, and has a range of around 265 miles. But guess what? The nearest Army post that even has tanks is probably Fort Stewart. That's in Georgia, about 610 miles away. So, how do you transport a tank form Georgia to DC? On a train! Sounds simple, right? Well, it's not. I've "railheaded" tanks several times in my career, and each time was a nightmare. You're talking driving the tanks to the railroad yard at around 0400, and then spending all daylight hours doing the precarious mission of actually loading them onto rail cars. One false move, and you have a flipped tank, and probably a few injured soldiers.

And that's just tanks! The president has said he wants to go all out. Does that mean M109 Paladin Howitzers? M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles? Humvees, Strykers, and MRAPs, oh, my! And have you ever seen a road after a tank has been on it? Those treads eat asphalt for breakfast, even with brand new track and track pads. So now, you're talking transport, fueling, operation, and fixing the roads after!

But beyond logistics, it seems to me that troops simply... don't want to do it. "F**k that," said one Marine. "We hate marching and ceremony already, especially infantry. The last thing anyone wants to do is rehearse a huge parade for days, have 1000 working parties, and drill for hours." Again, this isn't as simple as, "Put on your best uniform and walk down Pennsylvania Avenue." We're talking hours of training, drilling, and planning. That's time that could be spent training for Afghanistan or other missions, or, even better, at home with families. "I understand the intention but at the same time, I feel there are more things to worry about," says Sailor Mary Pountney.

It's not just the rank and file service memebrs that think it's a bad idea, either. "I don't like it ... not at all," retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, former spokesman for the Pentagon and State Department, said on CNN. "This is not about showcasing our military. This is about the president showing off. This is all about his ego. That's just an inappropriate use of military time, talent, and resources."

"I did an informal Twitter survey last night, very unscientific," retired Liutenant General Mark Hertling also told CNN. "But I will tell you, it was about 100 to 0 in terms of people, soldiers, former military saying they don't want any part of these kind of parades. The reason for it is ... there are resource issues, implications for logistics. It would be extremely expensive. It would tear up the streets,"

And then there's the fact of why do we feel the need to "flex our muscles" like this? "Flaunting your military in parades and celebration is reserved for nations who have no real power," says Marine vet Anthony Isoldi. "We already know we have the most powerful military in the world. The money is better spent investing in combat veterans who feel abandoned by the government they protected." He's right, you know? Why don't we spend the millions of dollars this hypothetical parade would cost on fixing the VA, improving care for wounded vets, and getting mental healthcare to those who need it?

Now, it is true that some people want this to happen. "I honestly have wanted to see this happen for such a long time and would love to have the honor to attend.," soldier Justin Rydlun told me. An anonymous source at one veteran service organization also said he thinks it's a great idea. "Yes, as with every parade in every community in the nation, there are logistical/security considerations that have to be met, but parades bring people together for a united purpose, and saluting our nation’s veterans of past, present and future is worthy of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue every day of the year. This is America, and we can salute who we want, when we want." Even the Veterans of Foreign Wars told ConnectingVets, "The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is supportive of any initiative that recognizes our military and our veterans. "

So at the end of the day, it seems that while there are some who think the parade is a fine idea, most troops would rather have a day off than getting all gussied up and marching for hours. For me, I applaud the president's intentions. Some have said it's for his ego, but I think he genuinely wants to show off how awesome we are. But, the end result is a logistical nightmare, a financial sinkhole, and basically a bad idea. Finally, when I asked Sailor Morgan Dorr how he would feel if he were asked to participate, I think a lot of troops would agree with his statement.

"I can't go. I have dental."