The Unfortunate Case Of The
Phoenix Veterans Day Parade
Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Route
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The 2013 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road and terminates at 7th Street and Indian School Road in downtown Phoenix.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 10, 2013 — Sometimes, as the saying goes, “you can’t win for losing.” Even more unfortunately, such seems to be the case for the 2013 Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix as strife between an Arizona anti-war veterans group and the organizer of the 2013 parade has boiled over into the public sphere. The story has made the pages of big, national websites like the Daily Kos and also warranted two articles in the big Phoenix daily metro newspaper, including a column by the legendary E.J. Montini.
But in the end, and after talking to both sides, the tale is more tragedy than an example of censorship. The battle has tarnished both would-be parade participants Phoenix Veterans for Peace, and the parade organizer, Honoring Arizona Veterans to the detriment of the good intentions and noble goals of both groups.
The good news is most who will attend the event Monday that begins at 11 a.m. at Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road will probably not even know or care that the “scandal” happened. Those new veterans that have put through the burdens of an armed force as it engages in conflict deserve as much.
But as the more than 100 groups snake through downtown Phoenix tomorrow morning, the fact that it has happened is a warning tale. This is especially true when one realizes the end result is messages of peace are more muted than they could have been, and perhaps more importantly, that the organizer has set a poor precedent by not realizing that the parade is supposed to be for ALL veterans. That includes those who want to make a statement and not just sign away their ability to have their say.
The Phoenix Veterans Day Parade is a relatively new phenomenon. It was first held in 1996 and in 1997 the Phoenix VA Health Care System began sponsoring the event. Early in 2013, longtime parade organizer and former VA spokeswoman Paula Pedene lost her job after alleging a “hostile work environment” and the Phoenix VA Health Care System dropped their sponsorship. Honoring Arizona’s Veterans — which now counts Pedene as a director of the 501c3 — has been involved for the past several years and has their largest role last year. The group will host the event “solo” for the first time on Monday.
According to Richard Smith of the Phoenix chapter of Veterans for Peace, his group has taken part in the parade for the past several years without any problems. But last year, the group’s “script” that was read by the official announcer, was changed without telling them. And, Smith said, the wording that was cut, “Members of Veterans for Peace use their military experience to testify to the brutal consequences of war and seek peaceful and effective alternatives,” was done because those behind Honoring Arizona’s Veterans wanted that point of view out of the parade.
“We were the only group that they said were in violation. We were the only group that was censored,” Smith said, adding that the announcement for Sheriff Joe Arpaio sounded like a campaign commercial.
Then, when the applications went out for the 2013 parade, it included a waiver holding the organizer harmless for any decisions they made. Smith and his group balked at signing the waiver and consequently Honoring Arizona’s Veterans never processed their application.
“Honoring Arizona’s Veterans have been bound and determined to get us out,” Smith said.
Phoenix Veterans for Peace made entreaties to the city of Phoenix, who will provide logistical, security and sanitation services for the parade and has pursued a campaign against their “banning.” But the city said it considers the event the purview of Honoring Arizona’s Veterans and refused to reverse that group’s decision to deny Phoenix Veterans for Peace’s application because they failed to sign the waiver.
“Organizers of all these privately organized and produced events retain full control over the content of their events and each signs a letter of understanding clarifying their responsibilities when using city right of way. By mutual agreement and as outlined in a formal letter of understanding, private organizers of these city street events stipulate that the city is not a sponsor or cosponsor of their events,” said David Urbinato, spokesperson for the city of Phoenix’s Parks & Recreation department.
Regardless, Katherine Brooks, director of Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, denies her group sought to “ban” Phoenix VFP or that it wanted them out of the parade.
“If we didn’t want them in the parade, why would we have sent them an application to begin with?” Brooks said. “We could not go beyond their application because they were not willing to sign off on the guidelines.”
But while Brooks says she agrees that military actions can bring about the horrors of war — including traumatic injury and death — that no one wants to experience, she also gave the impression that she in no way agrees with their message and methods.
The Phoenix VFP, along with the more than 100 other chapters across the United States want Veterans Day returned to its original incarnation, Armistice Day. The group also seeks to, “To increase public awareness of the costs of war, restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nation, end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, seek justice for veterans and victims of war and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.”
Such ideas may not be the standard military dogma, but many U.S. citizens agree with these notions.
That also includes current and former members of the U.S. military.
Brooks and her group should literally bend over backwards in order to make sure ALL groups are happy, satisfied and provide them with the ability to share their message. That also includes a scenario where some might need some special attention or reassurance. After all, as the new sponsors of the parade, they serve not only the veterans but the community, too.
Brooks, too, said she understands this.
“(The parade) is the only true public event where we as a community come together to recognize our veterans,” Brooks said.
But what Honoring Arizona’s Veterans forgot is that if they foment any sort of discontent, for whatever reason, they have diminished the community’s ability to come together.
Smith, a former attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, said legal action over the 2012 “censoring” and the 2013 “banning” might be on its way. He also said the group will decide Monday morning if they will try to march in the parade despite their application not being accepted. Or, if they will voice their displeasure in other ways.
There is still a day left to make a wrong, right again: For both groups to put aside their differences for the common good. Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, for example, could acquiesce to a Phoenix VFP-approved wording.
Unlikely, but possible.
Of course, there is always next year. This is one battle that is still raging, it seems, and will continue to rage, at least through Nov. 11.
John Guzzon is editor and publisher of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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