President Donald Trump will not be attending the traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. Instead he’ll speak at the start of the Veterans Day parade in New York City, billed as the nation’s largest.
On Wednesday, the United Veterans War Council, which organizes the annual Manhattan parade, announced that Trump would be at the kickoff of the event with other honorees in Madison Square Park, off Fifth Avenue.
The White House later confirmed that Trump would be going to the parade. The New York City tradition began 100 years ago, with a huge ticker-tape parade for returning troops from World War I. Many of the marchers this year will be dressed as doughboys.
Trump is not expected to march in the parade, but Gen. David Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, will lead a contingent of Marines along the 5th Avenue route.
In a statement, Douglas McGowan, chairman of the nonprofit United Veterans War Council, said Trump would be the first president to attend the city’s Veterans Day parade.
“On behalf of all the men and women who have served our nation, and who continue to serve, the United War Veterans Council is honored that our Commander-in- Chief, President Donald J. Trump, has agreed to join our 100th annual tribute,” McGowan said. “This is a day when we put politics aside to focus on honoring our veterans.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has often traded insults with Trump, appeared willing to call a truce for Veterans Day.
He told City Hall reporters that the day “should not be politicized. It should not be a spectacle. If he’s really coming here to truly honor veterans, God bless him.”
Last week, Trump drew a chorus of boos, mixed with some cheers, when he showed up at an Ultimate Championship Fighting event in Madison Square Garden.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won 79% of the vote in New York City overall, compared to 19% for Trump. However, Trump won on Staten Island, 57%-40%.
Trump, who grew up in Queens and made his reputation in the city’s fiercely competitive real estate business, will be coming back to the city after recently declaring that New York was no longer his hometown. He changed his permanent residence to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
In a tweet, Trump said he still loved the city, “but unfortunately, despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse.”
Trump also currently is fighting a subpoena from the Manhattan District Attorney for his personal and business tax records.
Presidents have typically attended ceremonies and the traditional wreath-laying at Arlington on Veterans Day, though there are some exceptions. President Barack Obama was at Arlington for six of the eight years he was in office. He was traveling overseas the other two times.
In 2008, President George W. Bush marked Veterans Day at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan.
In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, he was in Vietnam on Veterans Day and attended a commemorative event there with Vietnam veterans. Vice President Mike Pence represented the administration at Arlington in 2017.
In 2018, Trump arrived back at the White House the night before Veterans Day after attending World War I armistice 100th anniversary ceremonies in France. He stayed at the White House on Veterans Day and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie represented the administration at Arlington.
In a later interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he probably should have gone to Arlington for Veterans Day in 2018, but appeared to be mistaken on where he was on Veterans Day in 2017.
“In retrospect, I should have done, and I did last year and I will virtually every year,” Trump said. “But we had come in very late at night and I had just left, literally, the American cemetery in Paris and I really probably assumed that was fine.”
“I was extremely busy because of affairs of state, doing other things,” Trump said, “but I would have done it.”
—Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.