Houston welcomes home returning Iraq war vets
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- After more than seven years of fighting, American troops left Iraq in December of last year with no ceremony marking the end of the war and no big celebrations when they returned -- until Saturday.
The city of Houston saluted the local men and women who served this country during the Iraq war with a downtown parade, winding from the corner of Texas and San Jacinto to Minute Maid Park.
It was a day filled with music, cheers and gratitude.
"I'm just so proud of our soldiers and so thankful to them," parade attendee Lynne Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux was among thousands of supporters who lined the streets of downtown Houston. Many held signs, welcoming home and honoring returning Iraq veterans.
It was a bittersweet moment for some soldiers who say they've waited three months for this day.
"I've been going around the city and there still hasn't been a big to do about it. I had to actually tell people about it, and to me it still hasn't been a big publicity thing about it, but still it's a good thing," Army veteran Joe Sifuentes said.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker said the city organized the welcome home parade after a lot of folks came to city leaders asking to do something special for returning Iraq veterans.
According to congressional leaders, Houston is only the second large city to organize an official parade for veterans returning from Iraq.
"We had two purposes today. One, is just to stand and say 'thank you.' The other is to make sure we wrap our arms around these returning veterans and ease their transition. Make sure they know what support services [for Iraq veterans] are available and that there are a lot of folks ready to help them transition back into civilian life," Parker said.
City and congressional leaders joined in the parade, thanking members of the military and their families for their sacrifices.
"God bless these persons who are willing to go to distant places, risk their lives, and some of them don't come back the way they left. So I'm grateful for what they are willing to do, and I thank them for what they have done," Congressman Al Green said.
Though many who marched in the parade have returned home from combat, they say they can't forget the soldiers, sailors and Marines who remain in harm's way.
"Thank you and we are eternally grateful to you for fighting for our freedom," Boudreaux said.
The Houston Astros were a big part of Saturday's events. They gave free tickets to all uniformed military members and their families and began the night's game with a special ceremony in their honor.
local, demond fernandez
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