Honor Iraq Troops with a Canyon of Heroes Parade: Council Speaker

But with 48,000 troops still in Iraq it's a question of when

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Thursday, Sep 9, 2010  |  Updated 6:52 AM EDT
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Is it the right time for a parade to thank the troops who served in <a title=Iraq." />

Is it the right time for a parade to thank the troops who served in Iraq.

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New York City should throw a ticker-tape parade up the "Canyon of Heroes" for the U.S. troops coming home from Iraq, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Wednesday.  But with nearly 50,000 troops still serving in Iraq, it is a question of when.

The soldiers deserve the nation's thanks and a grand parade up Broadway, Quinn said.  "It's something we need to do," said the West Side Democrat.  "We owe them minimally a thank you in the New York way that we do it which is in part a parade in the Canyon of Heroes."

Quinn said she hopes the parade can be held sooner rather than later, but points out that 48,000 troops are still serving in Iraq even after President Obama declared an end to combat operations.  Quinn said she defers to veterans groups and others as to when such a parade should be held.  "I will certainly use the power and resources of my office to whatever degree they are needed to make sure this does happen." 

A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg declined to comment on whether the city is making plans to hold a parade for military service members.  One City Hall source said the Mayor has been reaching out to various groups to explore how best to proceed.

"The troops without a doubt deserve it more than the Yankees and the Giants.  If there is a grander gesture, I would want the city to make it," Quinn said.  "The most respectful thing we can do is look to (the soldiers) to guide us when the right time is."

Quinn said she spoke with various veterans groups and some said a parade should not be held 'today.'  Timing for any possible parade will rest heavily on the Mayor and the military about when troops who had served in Iraq could come to New York to take part.

Congressman Peter King (R) Long Island tells NBCNewYork that he also wants a parade for the troops up Broadway.  King said one should be held in the near future to show support for the troops now that combat operations in Iraq have ended.

"No matter how somebody feels about the war... we are thanking them for their service," said King. "Yes, there are 50,000 troops still there, I'm not minimizing that," but he added, "a ticker-tape parade is New York's way... It's a parade of thank you, appreciation and gratitude."

It was in a speech from the Oval Office Aug 31 that President Obama told the nation,"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over."  The President voiced his 'awe' for the service of the military members.

More than 4,400 U.S. soldiers have died and at its peak, more than 170,000 troops were in Iraq.

Outside the Veterans Administration Hospital along East 23rd Street, numerous current soldiers as well as veterans welcomed the idea of a parade.

"I think it would be a great thing,"said New York Army National Guard member Alexander Kostyan. "I think they deserve it."  

Rafael Naut, an army veteran who served in the late 1970's, said with troops coming home, it is the time to have a parade.  

"Its not a victory parade.  Its saying thanks for the people who sacrificed their lives and the people who put their lives in danger for other American citizens," Naut said.  "They hold parades for basketball and baseball teams."

A Pentagon spokesman said the military would 'welcome' a New York celebration. 

"We welcome any effort to recognize the sacrifices and contributions of our service members" the spokesman said.

But one veteran's group said now is not the time for a parade.  "We are hearing from our members whose sons, mothers, sisters and husbands are still deployed in Iraq, and for them the war is far from over," said Chrissy Stevens, spokeswoman for IAVA.  "We hope NYC gives our troops the heroes welcome they deserve when all of our men and women are home safely." 

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