Dear President Obama,
You are — as you promised during your campaign in 2008 — bringing American forces home from Iraq after that long, tangled conflict. The pull-out is essentially complete already.
The American people appear to be with you in this decision, with polls showing that voters and citizens are weary of war and foreign entanglements.
But as I’ve written here before, I think your administration is making a huge mistake in not giving the veterans (and their families) who sacrificed so much in this conflict a national day of recognition.
So here’s my suggestion:
Pick a date for a national celebration, to fall after the 2012 election but before the inauguration in January 2013. That way, the event will be as non-political as possible.
Schedule a national parade on that day in Washington DC and encourage city and state leaders around the US to hold as many local parades and celebrations as they can muster.
Order the Pentagon to call up Iraqi veterans one more time, reforming as many of our service members as possible into the original units that they served with when they deployed overseas.
These people served side-by-side, watching each others backs. They should celebrate side-by-side.
But sure to include a big representative sample of all our military branches, including National Guard and Reserve units.
March them together through our nation’s capital. Put everything on hold for a day while we welcome them home, while we pause to honor their service and devotion.
This event should be — to put it bluntly — a hell of a lot of fun. Yes we should acknowledge the painful losses, the men and women who didn’t make it home.
But this would mostly be a day for ticker tape, for pageantry, for unity, and maybe even a little partying.
As things stand, we run the risk of not giving full and honorable closure to the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lives have been altered forever by the Iraq conflict.
We are letting these men and women return home in dribs and drabs, to a nation that has already turned its attention to other problems, other conflicts.
This war has exposed a lot of moral failings in our politics, in our national culture. Let’s not add one more to the mix.
Granted, this is mostly a symbolic gesture. But symbolism matters in war and at a time when our nation is gradually transitioning back into peacetime.
So hold a parade, Mr. President. Make it a big one, with all the trimmings. Bring them home in style.