This Veterans Day, many of the men and women who have served our country will take to the streets of their cities, some in uniform and others in their Sunday best, waving flags and carrying banners as they’re led by trumpeting marching bands and police motorcades.
But Nashville’s parade will have to wait, if only for a day.
With their usual march down Broadway postponed, some veterans instead will gather for a service in the courtyard of the World War I memorial building, in quiet deference to the day’s main event: the Titans vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field.
The CBS-televised game will bring hordes of football fans downtown for the noon kickoff, flooding the streets and bridges in a mass of cars and foot traffic on Nov. 11, the national day of recognition for those who served.
Though Veterans Day is still a few months away, the promise of so much downtown congestion has already brought the parade’s planners to a screeching halt. The Nashville-Davidson County Veterans Coordinating Council, which comprises representatives from a handful of local veteran service organizations, has decided that the two events simply cannot co-exist.
Anyone who’s tried to drive anywhere near LP Stadium on a game day knows that it’s difficult enough just to find a way around all of the police roadblocks. Attempting a parade is laughable. Fred Tucker, the council’s chairman, says local law enforcement can’t direct traffic and manage crowds at both events. So they’ll have the parade on Nov. 12 instead.
Tucker has participated in the parade since the late ’70s, but this year he had to accept a sad reality: many people would prefer to watch a pro football game.
“Whether we like to admit it or not, the Titans game attracts more folks than the Veterans Day parade does,” says Tucker, a retired Marine who completed two tours in Vietnam. “The choice we had was to beat our head against the wall in an exercise in futility or say, ‘OK, here’s what the facts are.’ Based on reality, we needed to move this year’s parade to Monday.”
The reality is that football wins—and many don’t see what the big deal is.
Asked what Mayor Bill Purcell thinks about the parade delay, Purcell spokeswoman Sandra Roberts says the mayor was unaware of the new parade plans, but that “he thought it made sense to have the parade on the federal holiday, which is Monday, instead of a day of worship.”
The thing is, plenty of veterans don’t see it that way. They think Veterans Day should be celebrated on the same day the Germans signed the armistice to end World War I—on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. In other words, on Nov. 11.
In fact, some veterans are hurt that they wouldn’t take priority on the day designed to honor them. Vietnam veteran Glen Tilley says Nashville’s decision to delay the parade brings him to tears. “How can this be? Tennessee—the volunteer state—has a long and proud tradition of patriotism.... This is Veterans Day—not NFL Day.”
To be fair, the Titans organization isn’t to blame. The NFL dictates the team’s playing schedule. And the NFL couldn’t portend that the police presence needed for Titans crowd and traffic control could’ve thrown the parade schedule—and local veterans—out of whack.
Wanda Carter, a former department president for the Tennessee Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, lists her family’s extensive string of military service—World War I, World War II, Vietnam and now, Iraq—and says that, by deferring the parade, Nashville is turning its back on those veterans.
“How dare we do such a thing?” Carter says. “If the city of Nashville has one shred of patriotism in their bodies, they will wake up and put Veterans Day where it belongs...on Nov. 11, 2007. This day was set aside for this purpose, not to be changed around at someone else’s whim. How do you think these men and women are going to feel when they hear about this?”
If the influx of emails and phone calls to the Scene offices (some from as far away as Florida) are any indication, many feel, quite simply, sad.
Titans spokesman Robbie Bohren says the team and its fans will still celebrate Veterans Day in much the same way they usually do: with a game-day salute that can range from a fly-over during the pregame show to inviting representatives from all branches of the military to take to the turf to be honored at halftime.
Tilley says he doesn’t understand why the two events can’t join forces. In fact, he wrote letters to the editors of several Florida newspapers, urging Jacksonville Jaguars fans to write the Scene expressing their dismay at the mere possibility that an NFL game could preempt a Veterans Day event.
“I am sure that if this were a home game in Jacksonville, we would not only accommodate both events, but we would incorporate them, allowing the parade to culminate at the stadium to the roar of appreciation of the patriotic Jaguars fans,” Tilley wrote.Others can’t imagine why it’s so difficult to make a few concessions so that Veterans Day in Nashville remains, well, the veterans’ day. “We do so very little for our veterans,” says Joyce Jennette, a member of VFW Post 1970 in Nashville. “It looks like this one day to honor them is not asking a lot.”
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