A military parade billed as the largest since World War II will be held on Constitution Avenue on June 8 to honor the U.S. troops who participated in Operation Desert Storm, organizers said yesterday.
The parade, in which 10,500 service personnel are expected to participate, will be part of a daylong tribute to the U.S. troops who helped liberate Kuwait. The procession will be led by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of Desert Storm.
The personnel will represent every branch of the military service and every unit that took part in the military operation, said Chuck Hagel, vice president of the Desert Storm Welcome Home Foundation, which is organizing the event. President Bush will review the procession, Hagel said.
Although parades planned in other cities across the country may be larger -- organizers of one to be held in New York City on June 10 anticipate as many as 30,000 marchers, including about 10,000 Persian Gulf War participants -- the Washington event is being touted by organizers as the national celebration because it includes daylong festivities and will occur in the nation's capital.
The tribute is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery for those who died in the war, said Peggy L. Martin, a spokeswoman for the Welcome Home Foundation. Bush is expected to lead the service, she said.
The parade is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Capitol Hill and proceed along Constitution Avenue, past the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War memorials, and end near the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, Martin said. She said the exact route has yet to be determined.
In addition to the troops and military hardware, the parade will include military bands and floats, Martin said.
Hagel said the marchers will parade in the order in which they were deployed in the war. "The focus is on honoring the troops," he said.
Organizers said they expect the president, Cabinet members and congressional leaders to review the procession from a stand.
After the parade, spectators will be able to do some reviewing of their own on the Mall, where various types of weaponry and equipment used in the Gulf War will be on display, Martin said. Members of the military will be on hand to explain the equipment and answer questions, she said.
At the same time, the troops who marched will retire to what may be the mother of all picnics, which will be held on the Ellipse. Each of the expected 10,500 marchers will be invited, Martin said.
The tribute will continue at approximately 7 p.m. on the Mall with a "USO entertainment gala," Martin said. Organizers said it was too early to announce who the performers will be, but said that show business figures who entertained the troops in the Middle East will be invited.
The tribute will climax about 9 p.m. with a fireworks display.
The foundation organizing the event is a coalition of 20 veterans' groups. Hagel said the foundation hopes to raise $6 million to $8 million for the event.
Hagel said Bush was the first individual contributor to the event, donating $1,000. The first corporate contribution came from Comsat Corp., which gave $500,000.
He said most of the funds will come from corporate donations, although individual contributions are also welcome.
Besides Washington and New York, parades are being planned in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego. In fact, the District will be host to two Desert Storm tributes in June.
In addition to the June 8 festivities, Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon and other local leaders are planning a celebration for Gulf War veterans from the Washington area, said Vada Manager, a spokesman for Dixon.
The event, scheduled for June 21-22 at the D.C. Armory, will feature a "family-style" picnic for Gulf War veterans and their families and friends, as well as various award ceremonies and possibly another parade, Manager said.
"The soldiers who served in the Gulf War are deserving of every accolade and celebration," he said.