Top military brass and other officials will be in attendance for President Trump’s “Salute to America” event, part of the country’s July Fourth Independence Day celebration.
By: Jeff Seldin
The Defense Department on Wednesday confirmed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford have accepted the president’s invitation for Thursday’s festivities.
Other top-ranking defense officials, including the acting undersecretary of the Army, the secretary of the Navy, the acting secretary of the Air Force, the deputy commander of the Marine Corps Development Command and the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard will also attend.
In addition, the Defense Department said the White House has provided 5,000 tickets to the event for other military personnel and their families.
The country’s annual July Fourth celebration, which commemorates America’s declaration of independence from Britain in 1776, traditionally attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall in Washington for a celebration featuring a concert and fireworks.
This year, Trump announced the addition of the “Salute to America” event to highlight U.S. military power.
Late Tuesday, U.S. battle tanks arrived on the National Mall for the celebration that is expected to include U.S. military bands as well as flyovers by the Navy’s Blue Angels aerial exhibition team and by the plane used to transport the president, Air Force One.
Trump also plans to address the crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Traditionally, U.S. presidents have kept a low profile during the Independence Day celebrations and Trump’s critics have expressed concern that he will turn the event into a campaign-style rally as he prepares for his re-election campaign.
There have also been questions about the actual costs of adding the military hardware and troops as part of the celebration.
White House officials have countered that Trump will avoid politics and that the rally will be purely patriotic.
As for the cost, Trump tweeted Wednesday that the “will be very little compared to what it is worth.”
Since Trump took office, critics, including Democratic lawmakers in Congress, have denounced the president for using the U.S. military and military venues as political props.
Rep. Mark Takano, chairman of House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, commented on Twitter:
-Tankers parading down the street
-$2.5 million in National Park funds diverted
-Special VIP access for rich Republican donors
This spectacle is not a celebration of America and our values, it’s a shoddy ego boost for a national embarrassment of a president. https://twitter.com/MikevWUSA/status/1146207474220961794 …
NEW — @USArmy says armored vehicles WILL move through WASHINGTON TONIGHT.
Two M1 Bradley Armored Personnel Carriers.
“America’s birthday is supposed to be for all Americans and not a partisan event for particular president or particular party, which is what the president’s actions are attempting to turn it into,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit monitoring government ethics and accountability.
VOA reached out to Republican lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee for reaction, but Anita McBride, who served in previous Republican presidential administrations, said concerns are likely overblown.
“There are more important things that need attention than changing a venue and program for the celebrations,” said McBride, now with American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “I am not opposed to any president changing the location or program for Fourth of July celebrations.” (VOA)
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