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Veterans across region, Pennsylvania support President Trump's idea of a national military parade

| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 4:03 p.m.
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during the Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris last July. (AP Photo | Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during the Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris last July. (AP Photo | Carolyn Kaster)
French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, his wife Brigitte Macron, right, U.S President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, left, applaud during the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris Friday, July 14, 2017. France's annual Bastille Day parade turned into an event high on American patriotism this year, marked by a warm embrace between President Donald Trump and his French counterpart. (Christophe Archambault, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, his wife Brigitte Macron, right, U.S President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, left, applaud during the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris Friday, July 14, 2017. France's annual Bastille Day parade turned into an event high on American patriotism this year, marked by a warm embrace between President Donald Trump and his French counterpart. (Christophe Archambault, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron talks with U.S President Donald Trump next to a huge French flag after the Bastille Day parade in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. Paris has tightened security before its annual Bastille Day parade, which this year is being opened by American troops with President Donald Trump as the guest of honor to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
French President Emmanuel Macron talks with U.S President Donald Trump next to a huge French flag after the Bastille Day parade in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. Paris has tightened security before its annual Bastille Day parade, which this year is being opened by American troops with President Donald Trump as the guest of honor to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The country could use a good military parade, several area veterans said in response to news that President Trump had ordered the Pentagon to start planning one.

"It's a great idea," said Dwight Fuhrman, state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "We've got to support the military and the veterans."

While there might be questions about when and where to hold it and how to pay for it, the general idea is a good one, said Paul Kennedy, commander of the Pennsylvania department of the American Legion.

"I personally feel it's good for our veterans. It's good for our country," he said.

A Vietnam veteran, there was no welcome home for him and other veterans from that war. The country should do something for more recent veterans, he said.

"Personally, I think it's something that is overdue," he said.

While active military and veterans often take part in Memorial Day, Veterans Day and 4th of July parades, the vehicles they use are typically lighter ones such as Jeeps, Humvees and trucks, said Tim Neff, vice president at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh.

"Tanks might be a stretch," he said.

The United States has apparently only held the kind of parade Trump wants at the end of a major war. The last such parades occurred in 1991 in Washington and New York to commemorate the end of the Gulf War.

"There's no real precedent for it," Neff said.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Charles Anderson, a retired Marine colonel, said he doesn't see a downside to the idea.

"I think it would be great," he said.

Polly Bozdech-Veater, a retired Navy captain from Fox Chapel, wasn't so sure, particularly if the cost comes out of the military's budget. The branches of the military need more money for equipment and training, not less, she said.

"We're already having a difficult time funding our services' requirements …," she said. "We just don't have enough funds to do what we need to do."

Local military parades, rather than a large national parade in Washington, would also probably do more to reconnect the civilian population with the military. A disconnect between the 1 percent who defend the other 99 percent was a common theme in veterans' comments.

The Department of Defense launched a new initiative Feb. 1 called "This is Your Military" and is using the #KnowYourMil as part of an effort to bridge that gap.

A national parade would also help bridge that gap, said Bob MacPherson, a retired Navy chief warrant officer from West Newton.

"I'm all for it. I think we've grown complacent in the country," he said. "There's a growing disconnect between the population and military."

While the country and the military have been understandably focused on terrorism for the last two decades, they need to recognize that the world is changing, he said.

"China and Russia are re-emerging as real threats, so I think a focus on renewed strength for our military is important and I think this is a visible way to show that," MacPherson said.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, bbowling@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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