Returning Troops Will Get a Hero’s Welcome
In contrast to two decades ago, when returning Vietnam War veterans seldom were accorded anything resembling a public welcome, U.S. troops coming home from the Persian Gulf can expect big, boisterous celebrations to honor them when they arrive.
Thursday, even before the Pentagon was ready to announce a schedule for returning the men and women of Desert Storm, political leaders and military commanders across the country were making plans. and in some cases announcing them.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley said that the city and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce would jointly host a parade, to be televised by Channel 5, down Hollywood Boulevard on May 19, to, in Bradley’s words, “offer a rousing welcome to the troops,” complete with movie stars and other celebrities.
“I know I join with millions of Los Angeles residents in wanting to provide a fitting tribute for our troops,” Bradley said.
In New York, Mayor David Dinkins appointed an official welcoming committee to organize a ticker-tape parade and asked the Navy if some of the 100 ships assigned to the Gulf hostilities could be routed home through New York Harbor.
San Francisco was also planning a parade, although a spokesman for Mayor Art Agnos said details are not yet set. San Diego plans a parade down Broadway.
In Washington, a Marine Corps spokesman said planning began last Friday for a public welcoming ceremony in the nation’s capital.
No details were given, but Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that Gulf veterans “are going to get a greater welcome home than the Vietnam vets got, and, God bless them, they deserve it.”
Such sentiments were greeted with some sarcasm at the Washington offices of Vietnam Veterans of America. Its legislative director, Paul Egan, said he wonders whether the American people in general and Congress in particular will retain their euphoria over the Gulf victory long enough to provide adequate financing for postwar veterans programs.
Troops returning from Vietnam “were regarded with derision,” Egan said. “I think the public confused its distaste with the policy in Vietnam with the men who fought for that policy. . . . There’s no question, the welcoming parades for our Gulf troops will be more appropriate.”
Many military posts were also beginning Thursday to plan for homecomings. At Camp Pendleton, a huge picnic for the first sizable contingent of returning troops will be held at a beach on the base often used for amphibious training exercises.
At the Long Beach Naval Station, family support groups were talking to Navy officials about joyous welcomes for returning ships, some of which have been gone from the base since last June, much longer than the usual six-month deployment.