It was reported today the the year-old offensive in Iraq officially called The Surge has ended. All the units that were sent to Iraq to boost troop strength and take the fight straight to the terrorists are out and redeploying elsewhere.
By any measure of success our troops are emerging from a bitter battle as the victors. They have smashed Al Qaeda, brought warring religious factions to the table where they are ironing out their difference and working together for a unified, stable country, and political milestones are well on their way to completion.
America can be proud of its military, proud of the job our troops have done and how they comported themselves in a harsh environment.
Thus I am asking President Bush to honor them, and all our troops, in a true old-fashioned way, by giving them a parade, a big parade with full support of our government, right down Constitution Avenue past the National Mall.
I realize that this will take a couple of months to put together so it can be done right, and the people who most deserve the thanks can be brought together to march with their units.
But consider this; in early fall one baseball team will win the World Series and the city that is home to this team will throw a huge parade for a group of multi-millionaires that will be covered by all the media. I don't know who is in the running this year and I don't care, having pretty much been turned off to baseball ever since the players strike of the 80s.
But our victorious troops who put their lives on the line, many shedding their own blood, many of whom saw their comrades wounded and in some cases die for this country, should be honored at least to the same, and frankly a much higher degree, than a group of athletes many of whom make more in one year than most Americans make in a lifetime, with no risk involved.
As a Vietnam veteran there are two parades I recall with a deep sense of appreciation - the first in Washington in 1982 at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial and the second in New York City, arranged by Mayor Ed Koch on May 7, 1985. I was told recently that the tons of ticker tape heaped on Vietnam Veterans as we marched through Manhattan after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge was an all-time record.
I don't know if that is true, but I hope it is.
I also would like to see that record shattered by a similar parade arranged by New York City for this generation of veterans. And, following the lead of other American cities that finally held parades for Vietnam veterans I would like to see America's cities large and small take a day out of their busy schedules in the coming year, to hold welcome home parades for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is obvious that all else being equal we will have a much smaller military force in Iraq by this time next year, and it will likely not be involved in combat operations.
Afghanistan is a different story, since the remnants of Al Qaeda have fled back to the birthplace of the Taliban, just as they fled to Iraq in 2002 after being defeated by US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The good news is that there are very few places in the world where the terrorists can expect sanctuary and support, as evidenced by their pinball-like existence running from Afghanistan to Iraq and back to Afghanistan again.
While there will continue to be fighting, and while there will be a War on Terror as long as there are any terror groups with the intent and capability of launching attacks on the American homeland or our interests abroad, we still have scored a major victory, and to the victors should go a parade.
Aside from some diehard leftist politicians who put their careers on the line by disparaging the military - never outright of course, but underhandedly by saying The Surge wouldn't work, couldn't work, and even undermining the troops as they were locked in battle - the vast majority of Americans now know The Surge worked, America is victorious, and will support a formal "Thank You and Welcome Home."
We keep hearing the No More Vietnams refrain from our media and politicians. Those who read this column regularly know how I feel about that and by now are familiar with the truth of how the troops won the war only to have the politicians squander our victories.
If we truly don't want anymore Vietnams, then we should deal with the truth of that war, not the media myths. Don't let another generation of victorious troops come home to a misinformed populace, and simply disappear with no recognition for what they accomplished.
There will be a lifetime of burdens for this generation of veterans to bear, just as every generation of veterans that preceded them. The wounded and maimed will have to adjust, those with post traumatic stress will need varying degrees of treatment, and all will have their memories.
But all that they must bear will be an easier load to carry if the country rises up as one and says Thank You.
Mr. President, please don't turn your back on those who fought for their country, fought for our freedoms, fought for world freedom, and fought for you. Make sure that the World Series parade is not the only parade Americans see this fall.
If you say it should be done, it will be done, and when America puts its mind into throwing a parade, there are none better. Our troops deserve the best, and nothing less.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008