St. Louis First City to Hold Parade for Iraq Vets

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St. Louis held the country's first big welcome-home parade Saturday for troops returning from the Iraq war.

Tens of thousands of people waved American flags and cheered as about 600 veterans walked along the city's cold, windy streets.

The parade was born out of a simple conversation between two friends, Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum, just a month ago.

"We were out having dinner and the conversation turned to the discussion in the national media about whether or not we should have a parade to celebrate the end of the Iraq war," attorney and co-organizer Tom Applebaum recalled.

"And we thought that was all just kind of ridiculous and were wondering why something hadn't been planned," he said. "So we just threw it out there and said, 'Let's have a parade!'"

And that's just what they did.

People held signs that read "Welcome Home" and "Thanks to our Service Men and Women."

Some of the troops brushed aside tears as they acknowledged support from a crowd that organizers estimated reached 100,000.

"I think it's great when people come out to support those who gave their lives and put their lives on the line for this country," said Gayla Gibson, a 38-year-old Air Force master sergeant who spent four months in Iraq.

"The soldiers who fought did the right thing and we support them," said 72-year-old Susan Cunningham with Missouri Progressive Action Group. "I'm glad the war is over, and I'm glad they're home."

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