Friday’s Weekend Column
Veterans’ Day in the South

by James Glaser
November 11, 2005

People in Northern Florida, Tallahassee, take Veterans' Day seriously. Just a couple of years ago, 2003, the push to honor vets was so high, that the Veterans' Day Parade chairman had the police forcibly remove the Veterans for Peace Marching Unit, along with those from the Vietnam Veterans Against War.

Somehow those in charge in Tallahassee forgot that American veterans fought so all Americans were free to express themselves. I think it was one of those George Bush, "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" moments.

Florida Times Union reporter J. Taylor Rushing, who witnessed the 2003 parade, said that the Tallahassee police literally "Yanked" the Veterans for Peace and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, from the parade. Parade Chairman and Korean War Vet Ken Conroy said, "They can have free speech, just not in the parade."

I am now going to this year's parade and will report back in a few hours.

Wow! The parade was a piece of Americana out of the Saturday Evening Post. Two years does make a difference. The Veterans for Peace were the last unit in the parade, but instead of being kicked out, the people along the street clapped and cheered for them as they marched by giving the Peace Sign. There were flags and Honor Guard units, high school marching bands and politicians, fire trucks and police swat team armored vehicles, a Red Cross group and the Shiners, and sad to say, children in the uniform of every branch of service we have.

It is one thing to see high school ROTC marching units led by Regular Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine instructors, but when the unit of "Young Marines," Young Marines went by, my heart felt sick. I have read about child soldiers in African civil wars, and here at the Veteran's Day Parade were little kids, maybe 7 or 8 years old, dressed as Marines in combat fatigues, looking serious, and marching in step. These kids should have been in Little League or the Cub Scouts, but a more and more militaristic American society has them "playing" Marine, so that the transition to uniform and real combat will be easier.

After the parade I had lunch at a small eatery down town off the parade route. I was sitting there waiting for my meal, and I could hear the sound of President Bush's voice on two TVs, in stereo. I could hear our President defending his war in Iraq.

Every so often I could hear the applause for something the President said, and I knew right away he was at some military base. Sure enough, he was at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania. People started to listen and George's voice came across clearer as he said, "We will never back down. We will never give in. We will never accept anything less than complete victory."

I then thought about those little kids I saw in the parade playing Marine and wondered if just maybe they will be called on to fight in George Bush's war when they come of age.

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