Commending the Chamber for doing the right thing

With Armed Forces Day activities set to begin today I’m hoping for two things: nothing but sunshine and respect for those who are serving, have served and who will serve in our country’s military.

The first appears to be guaranteed as Thursday’s healthy dose of sunshine, which was visible through the windows of my office in the Bremerton tunnel construction zone and the fact that every meteorologist or weather prognosticator has proclaimed all week long to expect record heat this weekend.

Coming from the Lone Star state 90 degrees in May isn’t a record, it’s the norm, so I’m not going to complain about the mercury topping 90 for this first time in what seems like an eternity. Hopefully everyone will bring their sunscreen, because there’s nothing worse than going to work on Monday looking like an overcooked lobster.

The second has about as much chance of happening as I do of walking on water across the Sinclair Inlet, negating the need for ferry service, because of a decision made by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce to exclude the Veterans for Peace organization from this morning’s parade, which has Admiral Gary Roughead as the grand marshall. Roughead just happens to be this country’s top Naval officer and it is the parade’s 60th anniversary, so it should be a time for celebration.

Many religious books, specifically the Bible, state that there is a time for everything from mourning to laughter from celebration to quiet and so on and so forth.

There is a time for protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or whatever other issue one feels the necessity to publicly speak out against, and the weekly protests outside the Bremerton ferry terminal during the evening commute are fine and dandy. That is the proper time and place for expressing those views, and wouldn’t it be great if the other side of the issue had the moxie and dedication that anti-war groups do to exercise their First Amendment rights? That’s what makes this nation of ours so great.

Is the 60th annual Armed Forces Day parade the proper venue for expressing ant-war views even if they are softened by the mantra “We support our troops and not the war”? The Bremerton Chamber of Commerce gave a resounding “No” to answer that question and that set off the Seattle and other local media blitz about how wrong the chamber is for excluding these veterans who have marched in the parade for so many years without incident.

Being a veteran myself, I salute everyone who has served in the military and I deeply respect their views on the current military conflicts even if I don’t necessarily agree with them and even if I do.

Personal feelings aside, the major question is what is Armed Forces Day really about? Is it about a community with a long, storied Navy history going out of its way to put politics and other issues aside for one day to honor all those who served, are serving and will serve the nation in times of war and times of peace? Or is about providing a large audience for expressing political views with the caveat of “supporting our troops”?

Bremerton and the Navy will forever be linked together and like it or not, Bremerton is a Navy town. It will always be a Navy town and Armed Forces Day is the one that the community honors its heroes, so there shouldn’t be any sideshows like the one that could be arriving today.

If the Veterans for Peace deliver on what they have promised, then it will be akin to someone’s sister who doesn’t like who their brother is marrying bringing all of his exes to the wedding when they have no business being there and take away from the true spirit of the occasion.

Protest tomorrow, not today and let today be about honor, respect and reverence, not protests, name-calling and bitterness. Remember what it was like to serve and have to follow orders, right or wrong, and do the right thing. It’s about the troops, not the President.

Charles Melton is the editor of the Bremerton Patriot.

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