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If the Giants or Pats Get a Parade, Shouldn't Iraq Vets?

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The ticker-tape parade is a slice of Americana as old as the Statue of Liberty. It's an honor reserved for a select few (sort of), from astronauts returning from space to military heroes to beloved politicians like Teddy Roosevelt. It's also happened for baseball player Sammy Sosa, and even the President of Indonesia. This weekend, either the New England Patriots or New York Giants will earn the title "champion" at the Super Bowl, and be treated to a victory parade in Boston or New York City as a result.

Getting Super Bowl-champ football players a parade in their hometowns is never an issue. But Iraq War veterans? They deserve a little praise, too. They answered our country's call, and in the least, they survived. But for some reason, they're running into all kinds of resistance. Last week, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg said that a parade "would be premature while so many troops are still in harm's way around the world."

After eight years of war there that saw over 4,400 American troops killed and over 32,000 wounded-in-action physically, the Iraq War finally ended on December 31, 2011. Yet, only St. Louis has held a "Welcome Home Our Heroes"parade to date -- and solely because two guys launched a Facebook page and motivated a grassroots group of citizens. In less than a week it morphed into an incredibly inspiring event. And it definitely lit a spark. Ever since then, we've been inundated with notes and emails from folks from San Francisco to Portland, Maine who want to do the same thing for the Iraq veterans in their communities.

That's why today IAVA is calling on the president, New York Mayor Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Menino, and mayors and government officials nationwide to coordinate a National Day of Action to not only welcome home Iraq veterans but to channel critical jobs, education and transition resources to them and their families. It's a chance for all of us to work together -- just like we do on Veterans Day. Let's tap into the tremendous Sea of Goodwill that exists in the hearts of millions of Americans. Let's use some of our military experience to "coordinate fires." And instead of cities nationwide promoting events at different times over the next few years, let's all work together to coordinate a single, historic, transformative day to unite communities nationwide. If you stand with us, and want to see a welcome home parade in your area, stand with our veterans and sign our petition here.

For the mayors of New York and Boston: are you really okay with your football teams getting ticker-tape parades and not your new veterans? I am as big a fan as they come, but why do the Giants get a parade in the Canyon of Heroes and not our nation's military? If that does happen, what does that say about us as a society and our priorities?

Yes, Iraq and Afghanistan are two different wars. Americans know the Afghanistan front still rages on, with the end of combat operations not expected until 2013. But that doesn't mean our country can't start welcoming home those who have already returned and pave the way for those still to come. It will also show our troops in Afghanistan now that they won't be forgotten when that war ends too. And the expense should not be an issue. Just like in St Louis, sponsors should step up, and local people can chip in to donate goods, time and money.

If we can afford two wars, we can afford two welcome home parades.

But this effort is about more than just a parade. It is what parades represent -- a celebration, a commemoration, and an expression of gratitude by a community that has finally learned to separate the war from warriors. It is about creating a day to remember those we've lost, respect those who have served, and respond to their needs as returning veterans. After a decade at war, with the burden of so many carried by so few, who deserves a parade more than the brave men and women who have deployed two, three, four times since 9/11?

The New Greatest Generation has proven time and time again that they are dedicated to service. Now, it's on us to return the favor.

Even if you don't have skin in this Super Bowl game, sign IAVA's petition to the president and mayors nationwide before kickoff this Sunday at 6:30pm EST, calling for a national day to honor and celebrate the service of some real heroes -- the over 1 million veterans who have served our country in Iraq.

No matter who you root for this Super Bowl Sunday, our veterans are one team every American can and must get behind.

Crossposted at IAVA.org

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