Thanks, support, love for vets in a word: Parade
KATHLEEN MERRYMAN; STAFF WRITER
The calls and e-mails started about mid-summer. Troops were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we were reporting their happy return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“We need a parade,” one caller said.
It would become a pattern. We would run a story on a homecoming, and I’d get a call from a reader wanting a public chance to thank the soldiers back from one, two, three, five deployments.
A lovely woman called in August with instructions for me.
Find out the flight path for the planes bringing the soldiers home, she said. Then tell everyone under that flight path to get up on their roofs and use colored lights to make heart and yellow ribbon shapes that would be visible from the air.
I tried to talk her down, but in the end she had me wondering if I could get red and yellow fairy lights at this time of year.
The woman didn’t have family in the military. She just feels gratitude and tenderness for our soldiers. So do her friends, she said, and they want a way to express it.
We do express it, on our own and in small groups, in many ways. People volunteer with the USO. They buy gifts for soldiers they don’t know. They thank soldiers for their service, or pick up their lunch tab.
The people of Puyallup and the Association of the United States Army took it a healthy step further. They supported the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division while they were in Afghanistan, and celebrated their return last Friday with a barbecue.
That party was as much for the people of Puyallup as it was for the troops. They had sent a representative to each of the memorials for the more than three dozen soldiers killed in the war, and they dedicated a monument to them at Pioneer Park.
That barbecue was their chance to celebrate the soldiers’ safe return. It was a chance to be happy with them.
Lakewood, Tacoma, all of Pierce County could use that same chance.
Puyallup’s firefighters flew their giant flag from a ladder truck at the barbecue. Tacoma’s flew theirs on Thursday at the dedication of the new Boys & Girls Club and HOPE Center in South Tacoma.
When I saw it, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen it at a joyous occasion.
Lakewood’s first police chief, Larry Saunders, was at the Boys & Girls Club event. You may recall that he gave up his position to re-join the Army to go to Iraq. He returned in time to help manage the memorials for the four Lakewood Police officers shot last November. He’s the living emblem of the close bond and shared experience of our military and law enforcement communities.
And he would like a parade.
More important, this man who helped organize one of the saddest processions in our history would be willing to help organize one of the happiest on the occasion of the return of 18,000 troops in 2010.
Tacoma Fire Chief Ron Stephens suggested the day: Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
Yes, Auburn has a large and honorable Veterans Day Parade, which will accord special honors to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Nov. 6.
But we have Lewis-McChord. We have many of those 18,000 soldiers in our neighborhoods. Our schoolchildren have the day off.
Heidi Hoffman, a Lakewood police officer, would like a chance to stand beside South Tacoma Way, cheer and wave flags, honor the dead and celebrate the living.
“Being the wife of a veteran, the daughter of a veteran, the sister of two veterans and a co-worker of many veterans, I believe a parade is the very least we can do to support these fine men and women who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us. Like police officers, soldiers do not get to pick their battles. We owe them all our gratitude, our respect and our continued support as they transition to life back at home.”
A Veterans Day parade is one small but jubilant way to express that.
Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/street