Parade for Iraq War Veterans Ignites Debate

Tickertape is thrown out windows of the buildings that line the Canyon of Heroes during the parade for the Veterans of the first Gulf War. Veterans groups are debating when would be a proper time to throw a tickertape parade for Veterans of the Iraq War. Photo by Flickr user Allan Lee

New York City’s tickertape parades down the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan have long been part of American culture. Sports teams, celebrities, foreign dignitaries and Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War have all marched down Broadway to a cheering crowd and skies full of confetti.

Now that the Iraq War has officially ended and many service members have returned home to their families, some think it’s time for that war’s Veterans to have their turn marching down that storied boulevard.

Paul Reickhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has been one of the most vocal.

“Everybody recognizes that the Giants deserve a parade,” Reickhoff told The New York Times, referring to the parade that was thrown to celebrate the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory. “If a football team gets a parade, shouldn’t our Veterans?”

Top military officials are not opposed to the parade, just its timing.

“There are many Iraq vets who are now fighting on the battlefield in Afghanistan, and the feeling was that the appropriate time to have a national New York-style tickertape parade was the time when combat troops were back home,” Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas B. Wilson said during an interview with NPR.

Others objected to the cost, saying the money could be better spent combating the very serious issues many Veterans face when they return to civilian life.

Hopefully, whether the parade happens, the attention currently being focused on Veterans issues will not simply disappear as time passes. Homelessness, sky-high unemployment, serious health problems and a lack of knowledge about the resources available to them are just some of the plagues harming this nation’s Veteran community.

Hopefully organizers of any parade dedicated to Veterans will follow the example of Craig Schneider, one of the organizers of St. Louis’ Welcome Home the Heroes parade. The parade organizers also set up a Veterans resource village, where the Veterans who attended could learn about the resources available to them.

There are convincing arguments on both sides of the parade debate, but let us hope that all that energy will soon be focused on assisting Veterans transition to civilian lives.

View New York Ticker Tape Parade Route in a larger map

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