Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Tansi Smoke Signals

June 25, 2014

Scout Report: Welcome wagon drops the ball

CROSSVILLE — I was excited to take the day off from work on Saturday. It was one of those rare occasions when I would get to spend the whole weekend with my wife. “I did mention that we’re marching in a parade today, didn’t I?” I asked. “Umm, no.” she replied. By the tone of her voice I could tell she thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

A couple of months ago, I caught wind of an event being organized in Nashville. It was being touted as Tennessee’s “official” Welcome Home Parade and Job Fair for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be held on Flag Day, which also happens to be the Army’s birthday. I had seen several of these types of events pop up all over the country since the war in Iraq supposedly ended. In 2012, for instance, a crowd estimated at 100,000 lined the streets of St. Louis, MO to show their support for the kids who came home. That was the nation’s first big welcome home parade for this generation of veterans. Amazingly, it was sparked by a conversation between two friends and only took about a month to put together. I don’t know how many parades there have been since, maybe a dozen or more, but none of them have been close enough for me to attend.

News Channel 5 reported the organizers in Nashville were expecting 2,000 veterans. I could imagine the scene: walking down the center of the crowded streets, through ticker tape and applause; I could feel the bass beat of the drums, and hear the trumpets playing those sweet patriotic tunes. Just imagining the spectacle was thrilling. I called my brother the night before the parade and told him to bring the kids; this grand occasion was not to be missed.     

My wife and I were running a little behind schedule, as is usually the case. “The parade doesn’t start until 10:30 a.m.,” she said as I sped through traffic. “Yes, but we have to line up before 10 a.m.,” I replied. Only then did she realize that I had been serious about actually marching in a parade. To say she was not  enthusiastic would be an understatement, but she’s a trooper.

We arrived just in the nick of time, by my watch, but when we got to the actual staging area, I saw that my efforts to save time were mostly in vain. There were only about 30 people standing around, along with two police cars, a mobile booking unit and a fire truck. I was in the right place, but maybe I had gotten the time wrong. I approached a man who looked official.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Oh, they’ll be here,” he said. “We step off at 10:30 a.m.”

By the time the parade was supposed to start, less than 50 people had showed up. The rabble looked more like a protest than a celebration. I called my brother and told him I wasn’t marching.

We met my family at the War Memorial Plaza, arriving at the same time as the parade. The plaza was virtually empty. Five tents were set up for the job fair. There were no bands or cheering crowds, though, standing in the plaza, you could hear loud music. Just down the street, within view of the plaza, thousands of people were celebrating Nashville’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pride Festival.

It was a total embarrassment, made worse by the presence of my nephew and niece. What kind of example was this setting?

I’m not really sure what I expected. Perhaps it was the thought of an impossible moment. Everyone who has seen it remembers the Life magazine photo of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Imagine your life in the pictures of a magazine, where one perfect moment is captured to be relived over and over. Perhaps that’s something that only exists inside the realm of hope.

On the other hand, when I joined the army, I really didn’t do it for acclaim or adulation. I served out of a sense of duty. While duty does not require thanks, it certainly feels good to hear “Job well done.” No one wants to fight in an unpopular war, or to realize the disillusionment that, while you were prepared to die for your country, no one outside of your immediate family really cared if you did.

This nation has made tremendous strides to correct the mistakes made in regards to how we treated veterans after Vietnam; however, the VA scandal and the current political atmosphere are evidence that Americans are still derelict in their principle duties. People are quick to give lip service to veterans, thanking them for protecting their freedoms. Meanwhile, they keep re-electing the same old politicians who are systematically taking those freedoms away and corrupting the culture. Thirty years is entirely too long to be in Washington, DC. I would contend that anything over 12 years is too long (two terms in the Senate OR six terms in the House). Congress currently has an approval rating of 16 percent, but a re-election rate of 90 percent. Does that make any sense? It’s blatantly obvious that Americans just don’t care. If you really want to thank a veteran, we don’t need parades or pomp. We need you to get this country turned back in the right direction. Get out and vote for candidates of good character who will govern in accordance with the Constitution.

• • •

Clinton Gill is the editor of the Tansi Smoke Signals. He can be reached at cgill@crossville-chronicle.com

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Tansi Smoke Signals
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