Our view: Keep the politics out of this year’s Veterans Day parade

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When veterans assemble on the streets of Auburn for Wednesday’s parade, they’ll be demonstrating one of the freedoms for which generations of servicemen and women fought. Auburn’s Veterans Day parade should be a time to reflect on the contributions military personnel have made to this country. Their sacrifices have ensured the freedoms we civilians enjoy every day — the right to assemble, the right to vote, and the right to express ourselves. But when one veterans group brought their message of peace to last year’s parade, a scuffle ensued. Fists flew. And the skirmish created dissension among the ranks over the Veterans for Peace group. All veterans should be allowed in the parade, and the Legion’s parade committee is to be saluted for allowing Veterans for Peace to participate in this year’s event. The Veterans for Peace group, however, should respect the spirit of the parade. Some of last year’s conflict came in part because the group signed up at the last minute and was perceived as anti-American Legion. Some residents, including Auburn’s Dave Chaddock, plan to turn their back on Veterans for Peace during the parade. Chaddock said the group would “desecrate” the memory of soldiers. Chaddock and others say some “Peace” members are not veterans. In fact, the group does allow non-veterans to belong as associate members, but so does the American Legion. Does promoting peace on the streets of Auburn show support for troops currently in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other parts of the world? That’s debatable. And an open debate on whether you support or do not support war, universal health care, abortion or any other hot-button issue is what differentiates the U.S. from a dictatorship. It’s great that we live in a free country. But just because something is legal, that doesn’t make it right. Parade organizers want an apolitical event to honor veterans. Parade organizer Cynthia Haines and her committee have worked hard and do not deserve to have their efforts used as a platform for attention. The theme of this year’s parade, “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets,” recognizes those who were not always treated as well as they should have been when they returned home from service. That was wrong, and parade organizers are making this small gesture to make it right. Luckily for today’s veterans, attitudes toward the military have changed. Today’s public, regardless of whether they agreed with sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, can disassociate the government’s war effort from the men and women who are carrying out their mission. According to a Gallup Poll conducted earlier this year, Americans’ confidence in the military is at 82 percent. Confidence in the military was below 60 percent in 1975, the year Saigon fell to the Communists. But today, the military is the most trusted institution in America, according to respondents in the June 2009 poll. So this Veterans Day, residents should give thanks for all those who fought for their freedoms, especially those who never got the thank-you they deserved. And remember, we have hundreds of thousands of military personnel who are putting their lives on the line today, whether in Fort Hood, Texas, or Kabul, Afghanistan. Before you choose to turn your back on parade participants, or make a political statement while marching, remember the spirit of the event. Auburn’s veterans parade is meant to honor those who serve — nothing more, nothing less. Let’s treat veterans with the honor they deserve and try to leave the politics at home for one day.