The war that gave birth to America began with a Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Since that time, there have been wars to both amend and defend freedom both here at home and around the globe. As it was in 1776, it is today; we are free because of men and women who proudly risk their lives for America.
Doesn’t it just make sense that Philadelphia, the birthplace of America and modern Democracy, honor those who have fought for the country and its ideals? And yet, we don’t.
We have no city parade for Veterans Day, Memorial Day and for over a century we have not had a city parade to welcome the Philadelphia area troops home from war.
We have parades and celebrations to honor a Little League team, the city’s unions, foul-mouthed rappers and pop stars, and a gathering of yuppies dressed in white, like the cult The Remnants from HBO’s The Leftovers, except instead of smoking, they eat. All of these events that close streets, tax city resources and demand government attention, and nothing for the men and women who help make it all possible by standing in defense of America.
Two years ago, I was one of a chorus of voices calling for a parade to honor the area’s veterans, especially those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Mayor Michael Nutter said the city just couldn’t afford it.
Since then we have had The Taney Dragons Parade, Diner en Blanc, the Welcome America Concert and the Labor Day Parade. Somehow the city found the money for Jay Z and Johnny Doc, but not for the city’s 88,000 veterans who risked their lives to keep danger from our shores and our cities.
It is, in a word, embarrassing.
Philadelphia veterans advocate Joe Eastman, who fought in Desert Storm, is furious. In a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer he wrote, “… one would think Philadelphia officials would find the time and resources to honor and remember those men and women who have given so much and asked for so little in return.”
Eastman and other vets have been especially disappointed in Councilman David Oh, a veteran, who was proud to tout, even exaggerate, his time in the service to campaign for office, but has been conspicuously silent in response to call for a Veterans Parade. The councilman has however been able to find the funds to sponsor PHLLive Center Stage, an American Idol-like Philadelphia talent competition with Oh serving as a poor man’s Simon Cowell.
Councilman Mark Squilla has been more responsive to the city’s Veterans and has even promised that there is something in the works to honor them. Eastman appreciates Squilla’s efforts, but has heard this before and told me in an email, “It has been 2 years since the city said no to us. While I don’t doubt the good intentions of our supporters in City Hall to make a Veterans Parade happen, until we are marching down Broad Street, I remain skeptical.”
Councilpersons Oh, Squilla and Jannie Blackwell did join forces to announce that 2014 is the “Year of the Veteran” in Philadelphia. There was a nice ceremony, some promises, a lot of photo ops, but no announcement of a parade. Doesn’t 2014, “The Year of the Veteran,” seem like the perfect year for a parade to honor our veterans?
Philadelphians openly share dreams of a parade down Broad Street for our sports teams. When the Phillies won the World Series, such a parade was thrown together quickly to honor the city’s sports heroes. It was right and proper to do so.
We now have hopes for the Eagles to give us another reason to hold a parade. Before that happens, the city needs to find the resources to celebrate and honor real heroes, the ones, who for little pay or notoriety, fought in real trenches, willing to sacrifice all for America. The least we can do, as the city where America was born, is say thank you.
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