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Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009

Veterans Day Parade Excludes Veterans for Peace

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Members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) have again been barred from participation in Milwaukee’s Veterans Day parade.

Although the parade’s Web site says the event is “Honoring all Americans who have served,” it has refused to allow Veterans for Peace members—many of whom are combat veterans with Purple Hearts—from taking part in the observance on Saturday, Nov. 7.

The parade committee said Veterans for Peace is “a politically motivated group,” and therefore not welcome to be in the parade.

VFP Chapter 102 members “did not ask to participate in the parade to make a political statement, but to take their rightful place in the annual event saluting all who served our country in uniform,” the group’s letter to the committee said.

“There is no doubt that your organization is a politically motivated group. One visit to the organization’s Web site makes your views perfectly clear,” parade committee Chairman David Drent wrote in reply. “We don’t make judgment on your purpose. ‘End the war’ or ‘escalate it’ carries the same weight with the board. A political statement is being made and there is no room in the parade for it.

“We thank you for your service in our Armed Forces, but our goal has always been to have a day of honor that is 100% politically free,” Drent wrote.

Yet the Veterans of Foreign Wars is welcome to march in the parade, even though its commander, Thomas Tradewell of Sussex, Wis., recently called on President Obama to “heed the assessment and advice of his military leaders” and send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, suggesting that as commander-in-chief Obama’s job is to do what the generals recommend.

And politicians, some of whom—like Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett—are not even veterans, are invited to participate.

Apparently the parade committee doesn’t consider the VFW’s pro-escalation stance, or even politicians, “political.”

In his letter to the committee, VFP Chapter 102’s Mark Foreman wrote:

“We share your pride in having served this nation, whether during time of peace or war. We are a part of the Milwaukee community and of the veterans’ community… Veterans cover the political spectrum, as they represent the diversity of this country with a mix of race, gender, religion, economic status and other characteristics.

“What we all have in common is our service, which is what Veterans Day celebrates. We respect other veterans and other veterans organizations. All we ask is that your committee pay us the same respect.”

Drent, the parade committee chair, is also executive director of the War Memorial Center, which receives $1.5 million a year in support from county taxpayers.

It may be time for Veterans for Peace to make its case to the parade’s corporate sponsors and elected county officials, to let them know the self-appointed committee is excluding military veterans from what claims to be a community-wide observance honoring those who have served.

Veterans for Peace will continue to press the committee to allow their participation in the future. To support that, write: Veterans Day Parade, P.O. Box 684, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Call 453-8753 or e-mail: vetsparade@tds.net.

In addition to the official Veterans Day parade, a peace-focused event is being organized by Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Organizers say it will revive the traditional spirit of Veterans Day and the Armistice Day celebrations following World War I. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 in the City Hall Rotunda.