Photos and story by Chris Stone
Veterans along the route of their San Diego parade Tuesday expressed sadness to think young people don’t sufficiently recognize their service — bemoaning “an altogether different type of world” where young people don’t care.
One even called for the return of the draft — to “give every young person the chance to serve their country.”
But thousands of people downtown enthusiastically showed they do appreciate Americans who served from World War II through the war in Afghanistan.
Most veterans interviewed said they felt young people are too involved in themselves and video games — and don’t care about the sacrifices the service members have made.
Yet in a 90-minute parade sponsored by Veterans Week of San Diego, love and good wishes poured out along Harbor Drive.
Called the Tribute to Veterans of Afghanistan & Iraq Wars, the nearly one-mile parade for the first time specifically singled out veterans serving between 2001 to 2014
Young veterans, some with prostheses or in wheelchairs, were greeted with applause, cheers and waving flags.
The Midway Museum sponsored a float and the veterans were joined by numerous high school and military bands, Scout groups, local civic leaders and veterans from wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Local politicians who appeared included Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Council President Todd Gloria, State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and San Diego school board President Kevin Beiser.
Interviewed before the parade, numerous older veterans showed disappointment in the youths understanding and appreciation of veterans.
“I want people to stop and think about the guys and gals who didn’t come home and the sacrifices made for our freedom, and the sacrifices still being made today,” said Clint Griffin of the Midway Museum.
King Splitt, a former Navy aviator, said, “It’s an altogether different type of world. Older people remember what went before, but young people don’t care.”
Thomas Bourdage of the Midway Museum added, “I don’t think that young people know what patriot means.”
But Nick Besker, who served in Korea and Vietnam, thinks there is increased appreciation for veterans today.
“I think we have come a long way in the last 40 years,” he said. “When troops came back (after the Vietnam War) there was nothing. Now things are better and better.”
He recalls that when he returned to San Francisco after the Vietnam War, a fellow soldier who survived two tours of duty was gunned down by a “hippie” moments after the soldier deplaned.
Bill Turk, who was born in 1921 and served as a communications specialist for World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur, said of Veterans Day: “I would like them (young people) to appreciate me for what I did for them.”
Turk rode in the jeep with MacArthur when he rode into Tokyo at the end of WWII, and earlier disseminated his “I have returned” speech in the Philippines.
Veterans Paul Dumpson and Ron Perez were both in the Air Force in Vietnam and then worked together in the Navy as civilians.
“Children today aren’t taught enough about patriotism and love of county,” Perez said.
Both men were honored with the Cross of Gallantry.
“Schools try to rewrite history and ignore what vets have done,” Perez said.
Dumpson suggested that a return of the military draft would “give every young person the chance to serve their country. … Schools and parents don’t take the time to teach their children respect for the flag and the many who died for it.”
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