- Parade will feature patriotic floats, marching bands and veterans
- The event also features a vigil honoring war dead
- New York and Washington held parades in 1991 for veterans of Persian Gulf War
- Two New York council members are pressing for a ticker-tape parade for Iraq vets
Hundreds of Iraq war veterans and other groups are expected to march Saturday in St. Louis in what organizers are billing as the first official "welcome home" ceremony by a major American city.
In addition to veterans, the parade will feature 80 floats, each of which must be patriotic in theme and honor a veteran or a veteran's family member, according to Kelly Diedring Harris, a spokeswoman for the organizers. Military units, marching bands and Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdale horse team will also take part, she said Friday.
The event will also include resources for veterans to ease the transition to civilian life, the parade's organizers said in a news release.
The names of every service member killed during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will be read during a vigil also scheduled for Saturday, according to KMOV. The vigil is expected to take 12 hours to complete, the station said.
The parade's St. Louis-based organizers decided to stage the event after President Barack Obama's announcement of the end of the Iraq war in December.
"The two friends that originally started the group, Tom Appelbaum and Craig Schneider decided they were sick of hearing the political banter about whether to or not to throw a parade and just decided to take action," Harris said.
No other major cities have yet organized welcome-home parades, although two New York City Council members are pressing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to call such an event.
"We are a city that prides itself on welcoming people from all walks of life; let us lead the way in opening our streets to the men and women of our armed forces," one of the proponents, Councilman Vicent Ignizio, wrote in a December 21 op-ed piece in the New York Post. "Our troops did what our nation asked; as a city, we should thank them for it."
In 1991, New York and Washington each held parades to honor service members after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War. Neither city has held a parade for veterans of the more recent conflicts.
In December, Obama traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for what the White House called a "welcome home" ceremony for Iraq war vets, and numerous events have been held on military bases welcoming home individual units.