Wounded Vet Gets a Wave from the First Lady With AM-Victory Parade Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Washington victory parade was ″a blast″ of a very different kind for Army Reserve PFC Anthony Drees, who was badly wounded in an Iraqi Scud attack during the Persian Gulf War.
Drees, 23, of Grand Forks, N.D., suffered wounds in both legs when a Scud missile landed on a barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and killed 28 fellow reserves. He was one of 29 Gulf War wounded now recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital given a special seat across from the presidential reviewing stand.
When Drees held up a sign saying ″Hi, Mrs. Bush,″ the First Lady smiled and waved. ″It’s great,″ Drees said. ″It’s a blast.″
Robert Doran, 40, a volunteer helping the Walter Reed wounded, said ″it should have been mandatory″ for all patients at the hospital to attend the parade, in which thousands of Operation Desert Storm veterans marched down Constitution Ave. ″I got a tear in my eye. This is really what it is all about.″
Doran, who works with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, lost both legs while serving in Vietnam.
Red, white and blue were the colors of the Day. The colors of Old Glory appeared on shirts, socks, hats, bags, buttons, pinwheels, and, of course, tens of thousands of flags. One vendor said he arrived that morning with four- dozen Washington D.C. T-shirts with a flag motif. By the time the parade ended, only one of the $6 shirts was unsold.
Standing out among the flag-bedecked people strolling down Constitution Ave. after the parade were two young men carrying crude cardboard anti-war posters.
Fernando Tijerina, 22, of Washington, said a few people gave them words of support, but more yelled obscenities or told them to go home and get a job.
Joel Meyer, 21, of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Penn., carried a sign with the Chinese proverb ″every victory must be observed like a funeral.″ He claimed the parade was indicative of the military effort to sell the war. ″It’s absurd to kill hundreds of thousands and then celebrate.″
A few hundred other anti-parade protesters gathered blocks away at Lafayette Park, across from the White House. Some used cans as drums or carried signs reading ″I mourn for the thousands who died in Iraq.″ Others took a more casual approach to protest, lazing under the trees and listening to folk music.
Others enjoying the hoopla were mildly critical of the parade’s cost. ″I’m totally against spending $12 million but I’ll come because I want to get into the spirit, to see everybody in the spirit,″ said Louise O’Brien of Rockville, Md.
″We had enough celebrations and parades already. To add this on at the cost of the taxpayers is wasteful,″ said Army Spec. Jeff Benton of Ft. McNair, Md., adding he thought the parade was a big campaign boost for the Republican Party.
Some Vietnam veterans, who received a far different homecoming two decades ago, welcomed this welcome.
″We were spit on when we came back from Vietnam, said Army National Guard Sgt. Robert O’Connor, 37, who was in the Navy in Vietnam and is now recuperating from a lung disorder sustained in Saudi Arabia. ″The reception here has been tremendous,″ the Hopkinton, R.I. landscape designer said.
″When I got off the plane (from Vietnam), my dad picked me up and we went straight home. There was nothing like this,″ said Army Lt. Col. Richard Roche, a veteran of both Vietnam and the Gulf who marched in the parade.