Call for NYC Parade for Iraq and Afghanistan Vets

Army Pfc. White waves an American flag while the confetti and tickertape fall on the Welcome Home parade honoring the coalition forces of Desert Storm in New York, June 10, 1991. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chuck Reger

Two years after veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq asked for a ticker-tape parade down New York City's famous "Canyon of Heroes," a senator said now the time is right with the Afghanistan war winding down.

"Now is the time to keep with long-standing American tradition and kick off a campaign for the first New York City welcome home parade for troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday.

Schumer pointed out that several ticker-tape parades were held for returning World War II troops even while the war was going on. Vietnam veterans got a parade in 1985, 10 years after the U.S. ended its combat operations there, he said.

Desert Storm veterans were given the "Canyon of Heroes" parade in 1991 shortly after the end of hostilities in Iraq.

"With the completion of the Afghanistan combat mission expected at the end of this year, and with Iraq's official end far behind us, it's time for New York to stake its claim and for the Department of Defense to join in planning this welcome home celebration," he said.

At the Pentagon, a spokesman confirmed that Schumer's request has been received and officials now are "reviewing it to determine the level of support the Department of Defense is legally and logistically able to provide."

Defense Department support means joint military color guards and bands, troop formations, equipments and flyovers, Schumer said.

In 2012, the White House marked the end of the Iraq War with a dinner that included about 200 guests, service members who represented the more than 1 million troops who served in the conflict. Officials with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America had suggested a parade through New York City would have been more fitting.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA, said a New York City parade does more than just send tons of ticker tape streaming from the buildings, it sends a national message.

"We hope a parade in New York City shines a spotlight on the sacrifices of veterans, galvanizes public support and inspires other cities to follow," he said. "As a national organization headquartered in New York City, we appreciate the power of our home city to lead our country in supporting our newest generation of veterans."

Vietnam veteran Vincent McGowan, founder and president of the United War Veterans Council of New York, joined IAVA representative at Schumer's announcement and supported the proposal.

"New York City is the best place -- the only place -- to host a national welcome home parade for the latest generation of veterans," he said.

When IAVA and other supporters floated the idea of a "Canyon of Heroes" parade for Post-9/11 veterans in early 2012, they got little support.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion did not reject the idea, but neither supported it. Spokesmen pointed out that American troops were still engaged in combat in Afghanistan, the view expressed by the Obama administration.

Spokesmen for those groups today offered sparing endorsement, saying they support events to recognize veterans.

Two years ago, the administration, the Pentagon and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg all issued different levels of support.

Bloomberg said in a statement in late January 2012 that he liked the idea of a parade, but that the Pentagon advised him against it because it could put "troops still in the field at risk."

Days later, however, a Pentagon spokesman said a "national-level parade in New York City to honor Iraq veterans would not harm our efforts in Afghanistan." But the spokesman also said that a New York City parade "would be inappropriate at this time given ongoing deployment and combat operations [in Afghanistan]."

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at Bryant.jordan@monster.com.

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