This New Year's Tournament of Roses Parade was not only very beautiful, as usual, but also very special to me, as I am sure it was to millions of Americans.
First -- and for the first time in the history of the Parade -- it included a float entered by the Department of Defense. The float, named "Freedom Is Not Free," is a representation of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in our nation's capital (above) and is part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.
"While decidedly less whimsical than most other entrants, our float commemorates America's intervention on the Korean peninsula. In 1950 at the start of the war, Korea was a distant place unknown to most Americans; thus the phrase inscribed on the Korean War Memorial, 'They Went to a Place They Didn't Know to Defend a People They had Never Met.' By 1953, many more Americans were aware of the Republic of Korea and the plight of the Korean people.
This float is significant to the Department of Defense because the Korean War marked the United States' and United Nations' blunt refusal to accept the Communist invasion of South Korea. It was the first 'hot' war of the Cold War and the first real test of the fledgling United Nation's resolve demonstrating to the world and to the Communist bloc that bold, naked aggression would not be tolerated. It also marked the first war in which the US military's units were fully desegregated.
Our float and our float riders reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the units who fought so bravely in the Korean War. The theme is also very emotionally charged for Korean War Veteran riders on the float; as it represents their sacrifices and those of their comrades, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home."
For more information on the Department of Defense's Korean War Commemoration Committee and its activities honoring those who fought in the so-called "Forgotten War," please go here.
Another first represented in the parade is the fact that for the first time in our nation's history an animal, a dog, a 'four-legged warrior' is being honored with a national monument.
Approved by Congress, signed into law by President Bush in 2008 and later amended by President Obama to authorize the John Burnam Monument Foundation to build and maintain the monument, the U.S. Working Dog Teams National Monument pays tribute to dogs that served in combat and is slated for completion at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, in October of this year.
Lackland was selected because it has been the home of the 341st Training Squadron responsible for training military working dog teams of the military services since 1958 and is now also the home of the new Department of Defense Military Working Dog (MWD) Veterinary Service Hospital.
Americans got to admire an exact floral replica of the monument at the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade as a float named "Canines with Courage" passed by the cameras and the viewing stands.
In the words of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, "'Canines with Courage' portrays four-footed heroes who go above and beyond to serve and defend our country and our freedom."
According to the Los Angeles Times: "The monument, regal bronze statues of a Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois leading a dog handler on patrol, cost about $1.2 million. It was funded solely by grants and donations led by sponsors Natural Balance, Petco and Maddie's Fund."
An added treat during the passing of the "Canines with Courage" float was the touching surprise reunion of one of the servicemembers riding on the float, Sgt. First Class Eric Pazz, with his 4-year-old son, Eric Jr. and wife. Sgt. Pazz's wife, Miriam Pazz, had won a contest to attend the parade but did not know her husband -- a highly decorated soldier serving in Afghanistan -- would be riding on one of the floats.
Pazz jumped off the float, walked to his surprised son and wife and embraced them. The crowd rose to its feet. Spectators cheered. Sgt. Pazz and family rode together on "Canines with Courage" the rest of the parade.
What a fitting gift for this military family.
Korean War Monument Image: Courtesy National Parks Service