Social & Domestic Issues

NYC Leaders Call for ‘Canyon of Heroes’ Parade to Welcome Iraq Veterans Home, Mourn Those Lost

New York City Councilor James S. Oddo (R.-Staten Island)

The Republican leader in the New York City Council December 28 told Human Events he joined the chorus of the city leaders calling for a parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes to honor returning veterans of the war in Iraq.

“Listen, all of us, regardless of our profession,  everybody likes to hear a little ‘Thank you,’ now and again,” said Staten Island City Councilor James S. Oddo, the council’s minority leader.

“Now, imagine that your profession is to put on a uniform and get shot at and have barbarians use any rudimentary device to kill you and your friends,” he said. “Then, imagine you are trying to build infrastructure at the same time people are trying to kill you.”

Oddo said his fellow Staten Island Republican Vincent M. Ignizio has been pushing hard lately to re-energize the idea of a parade, which has been advocated by both Democrats and Republicans in the city body politic for more than a year. “Nobody is trying to get in front of anyone else politically, we all want the same thing.”

In a December 21 New York Post op-ed, Ignizio wrote that his model is the 1991 “Operation Welcome Home” parade that celebrated the conclusion of the Gulf War, which had a different character than the parade held in Washington that year.

“Ours featured the traditional ticker-tape march up Broadway from the Battery to City Hall. As New Yorkers know, this parade route is sacred and only reserved for those we seek to anoint as heroes,” he wrote.

“Since the Gulf War Parade, there have been seven honoring various championship sports teams. While these were all great opportunities to show our civic pride, I am sure even the Derek Jeters of the world would nobly support our cause,” he wrote.

If the parade does take place, it will be organized by a familiar hand.

The producer of New York’s 1991 parade, Peter Kohlmann, contacted Ignizio’s office and volunteered to make sure the next parade is a success.

“I saw the op-ed in the Post and sent them an e-mail,” he said. “I told them if they were really going to get involved in this that would definitely help them.”

Kohlmann, who specializes in big-time productions and has produced New Year’s Eve in Times Square 10 times, said the parade would lead to healing.

 “This war, which has gone on for nine year, has taken such a toll emotionally, especially on the families of the military,” he said.

In a Sept.  13, 2010 interview with Human Events former Staten Island Republican congressman Vito J. Fossella said, “These troops deserve nothing less.”

Fossella, who travelled to visit troops in Iraq while a member of Congress, said, the men and woman of the military have been fighting for democracy nonstop since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Speaking Human Events for this story, Fossella said he still supports the idea of a parade because although each family has its own quiet homecoming celebration, New York City with its Canyon of Heroes knows how to do it big.

“It is customary, not just in our country, but in every country that when a valiant group of men and women return from a war, the country honors that return,” he said.

“Let’s let them know in a unique way,” he said. “It’s OK to have a big celebration, once and a while.”

Oddo said the question now is what to do next.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn (D), has both expressed their support, and willingness to work to make the parade happen on the New York City-end, but the question is what is going on at the Pentagon, he said.

“Almost more insulting that to not give these heroes a parade is to have this effort fall into the same bureaucratic morass, we see every day in Washington,” he said.

“We haven’t been told: ‘yes’ and we haven’t been told: ‘no,’” he said. “We can’t get a straight answer.”

In addition to support inside city government, the parade effort is getting support from the Staten Island’s Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R.-N.Y.) in Washington, he said. “Mike Grimm is actually a veteran of the Gulf War, who marched in the parade.”

Oddo said when he and Ignizio talk about the parade they focus on three goals or groups of people the parade will be dedicated to.

“First and foremost, those who came back and how appreciative we are to them and their families,” he said.

“Second, to those who we lost and their families, to recognize their sacrifice,” he said.

“Finally, the third group of people, who could use a parade, is the rest of America,” he said.

“This is a very difficult time for a lot of people,” he said. “Even if it is a fleeting moment for an hour or two, if you are a New Yorker or live in the Northeast and you can get there, or even if you live in the Heartland of American and watch it on TV, we could all use a time when we can feel pride and a positive sense about our country.”

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