President Obama gave the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy on May 22, 2010. He spoke on a range of national security issues, including events in Iraq. The President made an accurate assessment when he said, “Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.” This sounded like the campaign rhetoric which was so effective at communicating the feelings of many voters during the 2008 election.  It was a return to, “There is not a Blue America or a Red America, there is only the United States of America.” I hoped he was going to elaborate on this point further, but he moved on to other subjects. Unfortunately, Americans are pessimistic about our ability to come together as one nation. Indeed, one of the reasons so many people voted for President Obama was the perception that he could unify the country. The question is where do we go from here as a community? We do have a say in our little corner of the world in Queens County. 

Fortunately, if events in Iraq maintain their current course, all U.S. troops will depart Iraq by the end of 2011. This is a good news story and an opportunity to display national unity. U.S. Troops are poised to leave Iraq successfully, even if it is much later than anyone originally thought. Once this happens, New York should host a lavish Victory Parade – the key word being victory. The past decade was challenging for the U.S. and the beginning of this decade has shown no sign that things are getting better – the economy remains poor, the BP oil spill, the uncertainty in Afghanistan, and the complete lack of trust in all things previously trustworthy have shaken America’s soul. We need some type of unifying act. It will not solve all of our problems, but it will be a good start.

To Boost Morale
It is important for Americans to be reminded that this country can get things right and act as a single nation. A Victory Parade will boost morale and remind Americans of the successes we have had since September 11, 2001; the prevention of terrorist attacks here at home and abroad, the liberating of 30 million Iraqis and ten million Afghans, and the fact that democracy is taking hold in the heart of the Middle East through the policies of two presidents from separate political parties. A Victory Parade should be something all politicians should get behind.  We should call, write, and e-mail our elected officials on the city council, in the State Assembly and in Congress and ask their support for such an event. If enough support cannot be garnered for the Canyon of Heroes, then a parade should be held in Middle Village, perhaps down Metropolitan Avenue. You do not have to be happy the war was fought, but we should all be thankful it was won.

Wars Fought by the Young
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, like all wars, are fought by the young.  
Allow me to elaborate on my generation briefly, the generation which has served our country since 2001.

We were born at the twilight of the Cold War – old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, but too young to appreciate its meaning. We grew up in the ‘90s when no one believed a real war would ever occur again and economic growth was never ending. We became adults around September 11, 2001 and thus have been at war ever since. What our returning fighting men and women need, especially the younger warriors, is to be reminded that the America they left still cares. America still has a will to fight, not just wars, but fight against whatever difficulties the future has to offer our country. America still has the same flag waving, chest pumping, God fearing, old fashioned American patriotism which made them join the service in the first place. Our generation has answered a call to service and should be reminded that people noticed. No one thinks they will suffer the outrage expressed to returning Vietnam veterans, nor should they be subjected to a deafening silence of ambivalence.

Often in troubled times we feel powerless. The impersonal forces of history are hard to make sense of and even harder to grab on to and change.  For most of us, we are not going to find a terrorist, reduce the deficit or get our friend a job. But we can do something for those who have done our country a wonderful service. We can celebrate and be proud of the next greatest generation.  

We can throw a Victory Parade!