Saturday, April 12, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Saluting veterans: We can do better

Jacksonville, home to the 7,200-member strong Little Rock Air Force Base, which pumps more than $900 million into the local economy, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely didn’t — support last Saturday’s “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” parade.

Jacksonville, a two-time winner of the Abilene Trophy for its unique and strong commitment to the military, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely didn’t — support a salute to veterans.

Jacksonville, home of one of the finest military museums in the region and the lead sponsor of the annual salute to Vietnam vets, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely — didn’t make itself proud last Saturday.

First off, the parade was the shortest and sparsest in the three-year history of the event.

Where were the school bands? Almost everyone at Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools has military connections, yet no cheerleaders, no marching bands, no drum line, no flag corps, no junior ROTC. No middle school or even elementary school participated.

Did they think it was not important to salute these heroes or maybe no one even thought to go and ask? Either way it gave the city a black eye.

On top of that, no Huff and Puff, no Sharon’s School of Dance, no fire vehicles and not a single civic club. Perhaps they were too busy or too inconsiderate to say thank you to our veterans. Or maybe these men and women of the military were just not important enough to give up a few hours on a Saturday.

Not only was the parade lacking, but so was the crowd, although the mayor and two aldermen were there. Good for them for adding dignity to the proceedings.

If those in the parade had candy to throw to the crowd, half the bags would have remained unopened. The event was advertised well, but very few people lined the streets. Surely that was a heartbreaking sight for the veterans and veterans groups marching, driving or riding in the parade.

The crowd was large at the museum during the remembrance ceremony after the parade quickly ended, but take away the active-duty military, the dignitaries, the workers and the veterans — leaning on canes, in wheelchairs and being assisted by nursing aides — there weren’t too many regular folks there to say, through their attendance, “We appreciate you, love you and thank you.”

Jacksonville, support yourself and your activities and good things will happen. Let the veterans and everyone know that you care and that your city is something special, so from this newspaper to all veterans: “We appreciate you, we love you and thank you.” — Rick Kron