Parties, Parades And Fireworks - It’s Going to Be A Patriotic Summer
Undated (AP) _ When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah; we’ll give him a mighty welcome then ... and again and again and again. And across the nation.
Virtually all of the men and women returning from their victorious venture in the Persian Gulf will have some parade, festival, rally, barbecue or block party in their honor.
The celebrations began with the first arrivals last week and are being planned right through the summer, as more troops are back and there is time for elaborate preparations.
″I think it’s time people get back into patriotism,″ said Dave Rice, organizer of a parade in Scottsbluff, Neb.
While some plans still are in their early stages, many cities and towns intend to follow President Bush’s call to ″every community in the country″ to make the Fourth of July into ″a day of special celebration″ for returning Desert Storm troops.
At Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Fourth will be a double-barreled celebration: It’s also observing its 50th anniversary. Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle and all four living ex-presidents have been invited.
Said Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D.: ″Mount Rushmore would be the perfect location for this type of celebration, since our Shrine of Democracy stands for the freedom our men and women fought so valiantly to protect.″
A group of Dover, Del., officials and businessmen who formed SOS, Show Our Support, had already decided to do something special for the troops July 4.
″We’re working toward a bigger fireworks show. We’ve talked with the governor about making this a salute to the Delaware military, including the active wing at (Dover Air Force Base) and the National Guard,″ said Allen Hedgecock, executive director of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce.
″We were kind of pleased to see the president mention it since we were kind of thinking that way,″ he said.
Soldiers from the Richmond, Va., area who aren’t back from the Persian Gulf in time for a June 1 salute will be sent videotapes of festivities.
Jack M. Kreuter, chairman of the Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond, said the plans are a healthy change from the reception given Vietnam veterans.
″We’re clearly not going to let that happen again,″ he said.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars wants to stage an unprecedented victory celebration for U.S. soldiers in the organization’s hometown, Kansas City, Mo.
″Our aim is to produce the biggest troop-support rally that’s ever been held in any city in any war,″ said Steve VanBuskirk, spokesman for the VFW national headquarters.
VanBuskirk said plans are tentative, but contacts had been made with big- name entertainers, possible sponsors and television producers.
In Los Angeles, getting big-name entertainers for a parade should be easy. Organizers announced Friday that Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart will lead a procession of other celebrities and military hardware down Hollywood Boulevard on May 19. Mayor Tom Bradley said it would be the ″largest, most spectacular parade ever put on in Hollywood.″
In Utah, two parades are scheduled. The largest will be in Ogden, home of Hill Air Force Base, around Memorial Day. Another is set for Salt Lake City later.
Frank Whittaker, secretary of the Armed Forces Council, a civilian group working to welcome Chicago area vets, said tentative dates for a Chicago parade are the Fourth or the first week in August - to coincide with the one- year anniversary of Operation Desert Shield.
Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi is planning what he said will be the biggest parade Oahu has ever seen as a tribute to returning troops. But no date has been set yet.
Just hours after the Persian Gulf cease-fire, St. Louis officials were making plans for a huge welcome-home parade through downtown. Although an exact date has not been determined, the parade’s chief organizer said it may be on May 18, Armed Forces Day, or the Fourth of July.
Reno, Nev., plans a parade May 4 and a picnic May 19 to honor the returning troops.
Scott Lively, a spokesman for the Oregon Citizens Alliance, said the group is planning - yes, he used the phrase - ″the mother of all parades″ in Portland on May 18.
New York City plans a week of celebration May 11-18, including one of its patented ticker-tape parades.
However, not every city is hot to trot out its patriotic fervor. San Francisco is wrangling over whether to throw a party.
The city’s Board of Supervisors in January declared the city a sanctuary for war resisters and subsequently proposed a welcome-back parade.
But some people want the sanctuary vote repealed, saying the city is trying to support both anti-war types and troops. For their part, sanctuary proponents say their vote wasn’t unpatriotic and there’s nothing contradictory about holding a parade.
To be sure, the hullabaloo will finally wane, so a Dayton, Ohio-based support group intends to hold a more low-key event to help military families and the community better understand the needs of U.S. soldiers.
Dennis Geehan is the coordinator of Operation Support, which plans an April 13 event that will include exhibits, workshops and seminars with professional counselors and military officials.
Geehan says the instinctive reaction of families, relatives and friends will be to overwhelm the soldiers with attention. But he warned:
″We can’t assume that all of them want to be barraged with well-meaning, well-intended well-wishers for days and weeks. Some of them are going to need some quiet time.″