More cities consider parades for Iraq War vets

Posted Feb. 03, 2012, at 3:34 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis parade welcoming home Iraq War and other post-Sept. 11 veterans was such a hit that at least 10 other cities around the country are considering similar celebrations.

Organizers of the parade that drew an estimated 100,000 observers and 20,000 participants in St. Louis on Jan. 28 said Friday that they have been approached by people from Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Tucson, Ariz., Nashville, Tenn., Greensboro, N.C., and Clinton, Iowa.

“The revolution for America to rally in support of our troops has just begun,” said Tom Appelbaum, who along with his friend, Craig Schneider, came up with the idea for the St. Louis parade and pulled it off within a month.

The St. Louis parade was the first major event honoring post-Sept. 11 veterans since the war in Iraq ended in December. Now, organizers in other cities are tapping into their expertise.

Alan Toppel, a 79-year-old retired businessman from Tucson, was in St. Louis Friday to gather information on organizing a similar parade.

“When I saw that this parade was done, and the magnitude of the parade, I was thinking that this is something we can do in Tucson,” he said. “This is something we need to do in Tucson.”

Toppel said he has received a positive response from civic leaders. He will meet with city officials next week and is moving toward the goal of hosting a parade by the end of March.

The St. Louis parade drew a festive and often emotional crowd. Fire truck aerial ladders hoisted huge American flags over the parade route. Marching bands played “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” Even the Budweiser Clydesdales clopped along the route.

The loudest cheers, though, were for the troops themselves, many marching in camouflage. Some had tears in their eyes as well-wishers reached out to shake hands or give them hugs.

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