There’s something I need to get off my chest about Trump’s ‘military parade’

I heard a report on something that I totally dismissed as rumor, innuendo and certainly not as truth or a possibility. They said that President Trump actually wanted to hold a military parade in Washington DC like the one he saw in Paris, France for Bastille Day. Uh, turns out it wasn’t a rumor, it was true. Ok, at the risk of the blind faithful harshly criticizing me, I must respond to this story.

First of all, the U.S. Army already conducted a military parade down the Champs-Élysées. It came in 1944 when we whipped the Germans and drove them out of Paris, liberating the city after some four years of Nazi German occupation. I think that suffices, and our troops didn’t have on pretty uniforms; these were fighting men who still had to face a serious Nazi counterattack later that year at a place called the Ardennes Forest. We also would face stiff resistance in a place called the Huertgen Forest.

The other thing about military parades, not conducted as part of a victory celebration or liberation, is that troops hate them. Yes, I can personally attest to that, as the amount of pre-ceremonial practice that goes on and all the lost training time and resources are a pain in the buttocks — as Forrest Gump would say.

If there was anything we dreaded during my time in the U.S. Army, it was a division change of command ceremony. They always seemed to be held in the summer, and everyone just had to talk for too long. We all were very fond of our departing Division Commander at the First Infantry, MG Gordon Sullivan, but his change of command was also a promotion ceremony as he was awarded his third star. And as stated, everybody wanted to talk…and if you know anything about Kansas (Ft. Riley) summers, boy howdy, I think I dropped three to four pounds of water weight that day. The most favored words one can hear at a large change of command ceremony are “pass in review,” which means you finally get to move — march around the parade field and pass before the reviewing stand of incoming and outgoing commanders and dignitaries who are always seated under cover, shade, and have ample supplies of water, cold water, to soothe their thirsts.

Now of course, the challenge in these ceremonies is to not “lock your knees” and end up kissing the ground in an embarrassing face plant. That’s why you have those tough, mean ol’ first sergeants and sergeant majors back there whispering, albeit in a very forceful manner, warning, imploring, ok, the truth is, threatening troops that they had best not pass out. It’s always a test of the discipline and physical readiness of a unit to have the least amount of troops to pass out in these military parades. And realize that there are many units where these formations are done with bayonets fixed — oh boy! The other challenge is that when you hear those words “pass in review,” your first step is not one where you suddenly realize your legs have gone numb, down to your feet…another embarrassing moment. And oh by the way, don’t be the officer who passes out. That’s surely a ticket out of the unit, especially if you’re in the staff of a battalion or brigade, and are right out in front — at least troops are tucked away in formations, difficult to see, unless the domino effect takes place.

I could go on forever reliving some not so great change of command moments. Did I ever pass out? Heck no! I didn’t want to EVER be the recipient of the level of jokes and disdain that would come my way. They key was to hydrate and keep moving the toes in the boots, and NEVER LOCKING THE KNEES. On occasion, you’d have the compassionate commander who would give the order “stand at ease.” He would be beloved, because that meant you could be in a more relaxed, resting position. However, if you have to maintain the position of attention, or parade rest — doggone that sucked.

So, no President Trump, having a big ol’ military parade in Washington D.C. ain’t a good idea. There are parade units stationed there in Washington DC, ceremonial units that harken back to our proud traditions. There’s a regular “Evening Tattoo” — not that kinda tattoo folks — but a military precision drill event held each week during the spring to summers at the Marine Corps Barracks at 8th and I Streets. I would recommend you and the first lady attend that…I don’t believe President Obama ever did. As a matter of fact, it was President Obama who made our Naval Academy graduates not have their ceremonial swords at their graduation.

Our military doesn’t need parades; we need to improve our readiness. We need to get back to 100 percent combat mission capable with our aviation fleet. Our troops appreciate your revoking those restrictive rules of engagement Mr. President so we can get at and kill the enemy — after all that’s what we’re called to do in the U.S. Military: kill bad guys, blow stuff up, and break the other stuff. That’s often the message folks understand when they disregard our foreign policy initiatives.

We want discipline and order restored back to our military, and no more social engineering, Obama-esque style, for our military, sir. We don’t need any more folks confused if they’re a boy or a girl, like Bradley Manning, who then get to walk free despite their traitorous actions. And tell that civilian judge you’re the commander in chief and you decide personnel policy for our military — not her, but you appreciate her opinion. We don’t want any more deserters walking free, while warriors sit imprisoned, like Army 1LT Clint Lorance…and sir, why haven’t you heeded our petition calls? Release Clint Lorance so he can have a homecoming parade, that’s far more important.

We want the restoration of tough training standards for our elite direct combat formations. And the day when there’s no more WNBA, we can have women being part of and leading combat infantry units. If there are separate distinctions for men and women at the Olympics, then why monkey around with our national security?

We need to have a military whose character is above that of civilian society, not made equal to, or subservient. Such as this story from Stars and Stripes, which I find disturbing:

“Off-duty soldiers on the Korean Peninsula are now allowed to grow facial hair, wear earrings, put on hats indoors and even turn them backwards or sideways under changes to Eighth Army rules. Lt. Gen. Michael Bills, who took command of the Eighth Army last month, approved the changes last week to address troops’ concerns, according to an Army statement issued Thursday. 

“In the past, we’ve been more restrictive in four areas of appearance of our soldiers in order to keep a strong alliance here on the ‘pen’ in regards to the cultural norms of the Korean population but [times and trends] have changed,” Eighth Army’s top enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Merritt, said in the statement. Spc. Isiah Dawkins, an African-American soldier serving with the 339th Quartermaster Company at Camp Humphreys, said the changes will give troops’ faces a much needed break.  

“A lot of people have problems with shaving; everyone’s skin is different, everyone’s hair is different,” said the 25-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, who uses medications to shave to Army standards. Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Gay, a pilot with the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Humphreys, said he respects the move away from micro-managing soldiers’ personal lives. “I think it’s a huge morale boost for the lower enlisted guys especially,” said the 34-year-old from Marquette, Mich. “I think they respect the decision that they are treated as an adult.”

Maj. Benjamen Perry, a lawyer at Camp Humphreys, applauded the change on Tuesday, calling it a “move in the right direction.” “This is a prime example of common sense prevailing,” said the 41-year-old from Washington state. “When I first got here last summer I thought it was asinine [to be clean shaven], regardless of whether we were on pass, on leave, or at the house.” The next item on troops’ wish list is a change to curfew policy, Perry said. All troops in South Korea area required to be on base or in their homes between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.”

Our military is not about “common sense” as defined by civilian society. It’s about uncommon valor that goes above and beyond that which is expected of others. I remember, Mr. President, NEVER wanting my commanding officer seeing me unkempt. Heck, I got in trouble for having a mustache as a young lieutenant. And I think those troops in South Korea need to be reminded they’re still in an active combat environment, a peace treaty was never signed, just an Armistice. And yes, when I was stationed there in 1995, there was a curfew, and things were not as tense as today on the Korean Peninsula.

So no Mr. President, we don’t need a military parade. We just need a stronger, disciplined and ready military unmatched in character, spirit and capability than any other military force presented by our enemies in China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea…as well as prepared to crush the global Islamic jihad. Ya just don’t do that parading around.

[Learn more about Allen West’s vision for this nation in his book Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom]

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