Dallas Mayor: No Iraq war parade, fold into Veterans Day parade

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on December 29, 2011 at 8:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 29 at 9:04 PM

DALLAS - The Iraq war is over.

It lasted nine years and took the lives of 418 Texans.

Yet the welcome home events so far have been small.

Days after the final troops leave Iraq, at Fort Hood and other Texas military installations, there are still no big local plans to honor the troops.

When those who served in the Gulf War returned in 1991, Dallas staged one of largest parades in the country.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told News 8 Thursday he's open to honoring those who fought, but not necessarily in a separate parade.

Twenty years ago, the Dallas Gulf War parade drew a crowd police estimated at more than 100,000.

But with Iraq free and American forces gone, Mayor Rawlings says he doesn't favor a separate parade this time.

He prefers to hold off until Dallas' Veterans Day parade in November, the nation's second-biggest, to honor those who served in Iraq.

"I would just like to take the next 10 months to make sure all the veterans are back here," Rawlings said. "Make it a region-wide parade, invite them all, let's do it right when we do it."

The 1991 parade relied on a volunteer committee to coordinate, with billionaire and civic leader Ross Perot behind the execution.

Hundreds volunteered for the events, which spanned three days and cost about $3 million.

Private donations covered one million, in-kind donations covered more, and the city picked up some security costs.

Public relations consultant John Weekley directed the '91 parade and would like to see one now.

"If we just did a parade and say, had a ceremony at Fair Park in the Cotton Bowl or someplace like that, you could probably do it for a couple of million dollars," Weekley said.

But times are different.

Rawlings said the city's budget is too strapped to pick up security, and the war continues in Afghanistan.

He's talked to the veterans' groups sponsoring the parade and says they're in.

"They think it's a great idea to make sure that that Veteran's Day parade really honors the Iraqi soldier, veteran and active soldiers as well," Rawlings said.

The Veterans Day parade is all privately funded, even for police security, the mayor says. The theme of last month's vets day parade was "Remembering Pearl Harbor."

Rawlings says in 2012, it can be honoring the service and sacrifice in Iraq.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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