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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Robin Waller: What’s wrong with honoring our veterans?

Robin Waller

May 15, 1965. Armed Forces Day. It was a beautiful, sunny morning in Spokane and I was sitting on the sidewalk with a purple balloon and cotton candy. I was the 4-year-old little sister of a newly recruited Army paratrooper who, in just eight months from that beautiful May morning, would be launched into the hellhole of Vietnam.

I was watching the Armed Forces Day Parade sponsored by the Spokane Lilac Festival. As the floats and bands went by, I would scream and holler for my favorites … Lewis and Clark, John R. Rogers, North Central, Deer Park, Sandpoint, Rosalia and Oakesdale. I ran out to the Lilac Royalty float to give Kathy Swanson, the Lilac Festival queen, who was my brother’s classmate and friend, some lilacs from our lilac bush.

As much as I liked the bands and beautiful floats and to have Kathy Swanson give me a big hug, my favorite part of the parade that day was seeing the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and our beloved airmen from Fairchild. Every time a branch of the military came by, I would stand with my little hand over my heart and scream “Geronimo” or “I Love You.” They were my heroes. The city of Spokane and surrounding communities were honoring our brave military with a parade in their honor.

Feb. 7, 2018. President Donald Trump has ordered that we have a large military parade in our nation’s capital. He is being condemned over the request. Why? Why would any American not want a parade to honor our military?

I wasn’t surprised, though. I served as Lilac Festival Parade coordinator for 17 years. Not a year went by that I did not field a call from someone who was upset that the parade was named the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade and that we were honoring killers, bullies, oppressors, etc. I found it fascinating that many of the calls had 206 area codes attached to them. I always had a great answer to their comments: “Because of these brave men and women, you have the right to call and complain!” They always hung up.

The Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight is the largest if not the only armed forces parade left in the country. Isn’t that a shame? If President Trump wants a parade, I will personally coordinate it and I’m sure a group of highly qualified parade organizers – being the retired Lilac Festival Association directors, most of whom are retired military and military spouses, themselves – would lend a hand.

Thank you, President Trump, for at least suggesting honoring our men and women in uniform with a parade.

And the little 4-year-old girl who sat on the street cheering for the military grew up to cheer her Vietnam vet brothers and other veterans as they were honored on the third Saturday of every May.

Robin Waller is a former Lilac Festival Parade coordinator, historian, volunteer and director (1979-2007).