When the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq in December 2011–hurried out to meet a deadline President Barack Obama set years earlier–debate raged about whether to throw a ticker-tape parade in New York or Washington, D.C. to welcome the returning heroes and mark the end of the almost nine years of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While city officials were unopposed to such a move, the administration decided to forgo the celebration. Military officials didn’t give a reason for the lack of fanfare, but some reasoned the display would be seen as inappropriate while troops still fought and died in Afghanistan.
Nearly six months later, a few organizations have teamed up to make sure the troops who served in the Iraq War, and the ones who died, are remembered and honored this Memorial Day.
Organizers of the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., plan to dedicate an emotional finale to veterans of the war and their families, said Tim Holbert, executive director of the American Veterans Center, the parade’s presenter.
The event will be one of the first in the nation’s capital to focus on these veterans. Holbert told Human Events that in spite of the ever-changing news cycle, it was important to make sure Iraq did not become another of America’s forgotten wars.
“You saw something similar in Vietnam,” he said. “Politically, people were ready to move on, but there were tremendous stories of valor and sacrifice out of that generation. I think most people want to make sure that nothing like (Vietnam) ever happens again.”
The parade, which begins Monday at 2 p.m. and will march down Constitution Avenue from 7th Street to 17th, will showcase a living timeline of American military history, from the Revolutionary War to the present. At the end, families of fallen Iraq veterans will march, followed by veterans of the war, and finally active-duty troops from each branch of the Armed Forces.
The objective, said Holbert, was not an ostentatious celebration, but a simple moment of tribute.
“People really want to see this generation honored,” he said. “It’s not a welcome home parade; it’s a recognition of the sacrifice.”
The parade will also be carried live on Fox 5 and on station affiliates across the country.
In final count, the Iraq War toll was 4,486 U.S. troop fatalities and more than 32,000 wounded.