The top leader of the U.S. Marine Corps may visit Chattanooga for the city's Armed Forces Day in May, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed Monday.
Congressman Chuck Fleischmann invited Gen. Robert Neller, who heads the Marine Corps, to give the keynote address at the Armed Forces Day luncheon on May 6.
"He is seriously considering the opportunity to come to Chattanooga, provided the timing works out," spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Dent wrote in an email to the Times Free Press.
Fleischmann said Neller has confirmed to him he will attend the annual celebration in Chattanooga.
"He was thrilled to come," Fleischmann said.
One of the longest-standing parades of its size in the nation, the event honors all five branches of the Armed Forces, and focuses on one particular branch each year. In 2015, the parade honored the U.S. Navy, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert attended.
This year's event will be the first since the July 16 terrorist attack, when a 24-year-old gunman attacked two military sites in Chattanooga, killing four Marines and mortally wounding a Navy specialist. The gunman was killed in a shootout with Chattanooga police.
The Marine Corps will be the specially honored branch this year, during the 67th parade, said Mickey McCamish, vice chairman of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council, which organizes the parade.
"I think for all of us in our community, the fact it is the first time we are experiencing it without those five being present in our community, it is a tough time," he said. "Any first is."
The July 16 attack thrust Chattanooga into a national spotlight as the country debated how to best protect members of the military and how to stop such radical, lone-wolf shooters. Vice President Joe Biden visited Chattanooga a month after the attack to speak at a memorial service for the fallen, and President Obama spoke about the attack multiple times.
Fleischmann said he thinks Neller's visit is an important step forward in the city's healing process.
"It will show the mutual love that Chattanooga has for the Fallen Five and for the Marine Corps," he said. "It will also show the respect and admiration the U.S. Marine Corps has for Chattanooga, by virtue of sending their top general here. I think it's a sign of mutual admiration and respect."