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Our View: Veterans’ scuffle rains on otherwise honorable parade

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Veterans Day organizers made a wonderful statement this week when they honored local Japanese Americans who volunteered and fought valiantly for the U.S. Army during World War II. The successful parade through Downtown Auburn and subsequent festivities reminded young and old alike that our freedom has come at a cost and our diversity has made us stronger. It’s unfortunate that a scuffle broke out at the start of the parade between veterans including the American Legion and Veterans for Peace leaders. Veterans Day should honor all veterans who have sacrificed to make our country the greatest nation in the world. The six-member Veterans for Peace contingent was rightfully allowed to march in the parade, but without their banner. No matter whose side you’re on, the behavior displayed by both groups at the start of the parade was demeaning to all involved and to the celebration itself. Both groups share responsibility for this childish confrontation. Fist fighting is uncalled for and undignified, especially during a parade held to honor those who served. Organizers must take steps to ensure all veterans groups are treated with dignity and respect in future parades. And parade participants must act in a manner that is worthy of dignity and respect. By not allowing the Veterans for Peace to carry their banner, which displays of all supposedly offensive graphics a peace dove, the American Legion trampled on the rights they fought so hard to protect. The right to freedom of speech is one that separates a democracy from a totalitarian regime. On the other hand, Veterans for Peace knew or should have known that their presence might not be positively viewed by many and should have signed up in advance, as the other veterans groups did. And if they were then told that their banner caused organizers much discomfort, how about peacefully agreeing to march without the banner for a day and staging a protest another time? Veterans for Peace also must shoulder some responsibility for the fracas they helped create. When confronted by the American Legion commander, who was serving as parade director, a Veterans for Peace member admittedly knocked off the 72-year-old’s hat. The “Peace” combatant was then struck in the shoulder and head. The incident was so bizarre that Associated Press picked up the Auburn Journal story and made it national news. The American Legion and Veterans for Peace should both have been more respectful of each other and the event itself. Both veterans groups deserve admiration and respect for their service to America. But the childish behavior they displayed Tuesday demeans the very uniforms they have fought so hard to honor. It will now be up to local police to sort out whether or not a crime was committed. And it will be up to parade organizers and the participants themselves to ensure this type of behavior is not repeated in the future.