DOD Supports Parades When All Combat Troops Return

WASHINGTON — Pen­ta­gon offi­cials say they’re all for a “New York-style tick­er­tape parade” hon­or­ing com­bat troops who served in Iraq, but bow­ing to the mil­i­tary leadership’s wish­es, agree that the best time to do so is after all com­bat troops have returned home from Afghanistan as well.

Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense for Pub­lic Affairs Dou­glas B. Wil­son told Lynn Neary of NPR’s “Talk of the Town” pro­gram the Defense Depart­ment ful­ly sup­ports home­com­ing cel­e­bra­tions for Iraq War vet­er­ans.

St. Louis host­ed a parade last month that drew an esti­mat­ed 20,000 par­tic­i­pants and 100,000 spec­ta­tors. Some 15 more cities are con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar parades.

“The event in St. Louis was ter­rif­ic, and it was some­thing that we applaud and we know that there will be more of,” Wil­son said.

Wil­son said there’s always been inter­est in a nation­al-lev­el cel­e­bra­tion to hon­or troops returned from Iraq. “The ques­tion was not whether to have a parade, but when to do so,” he said.

Based on input from the mil­i­tary, Wil­son said, the sen­ti­ment is that now is too soon, par­tic­u­lar­ly because many Iraq War vet­er­ans now are deployed to Afghanistan. The con­sen­sus, he said, was that “that kind of event should wait and that it would be more appro­pri­ate­ly held when com­bat troops were com­ing home.”

Mean­while, plans are under way for an offi­cial White House din­ner Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will host lat­er this month for Iraq vet­er­ans and their guests. The event, to be on the scale of an offi­cial state din­ner hon­or­ing vis­it­ing heads of state, will express “the spir­it, the dig­ni­ty, the respect and the grat­i­tude” of the pres­i­dent and Amer­i­can peo­ple, Wil­son said.

Invi­tees will be of “all ranks, from all ser­vices and from all states and ter­ri­to­ries,” Wil­son said, cho­sen by a selec­tion com­mit­tee of senior enlist­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all five ser­vices and the Nation­al Guard and reserves.

They strove, he said, to ensure the par­tic­i­pants will be “rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of men and women who fought on the bat­tle­field in Iraq.”

As more region­al-lev­el parades and cel­e­bra­tions take place around the coun­try, Wil­son said, return­ing com­bat vet­er­ans deserve all the sup­port they receive. That, he added, includes not just home­com­ing com­mem­o­ra­tions, but also sup­port as vet­er­ans read­just to their com­mu­ni­ties and seek jobs.

“The ques­tion is when, where and how we can hon­or those who served in Iraq and are serv­ing in Afghanistan,” Wil­son said. “And the answer to when is always, and where is every­where, and how is all kinds of dif­fer­ent ways.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)