On July 8, New Hampshire will hold its first “Welcome Home” – End of Iraq War parade in Portsmouth after the city agreed to co-sponsor the event on April 10.
Last January, St. Louis, Missouri, became the first major city to hold such a parade, with 100,000 celebrating together.
"We are proud that Portsmouth will be the first city (or town) in New Hampshire, and possibly even in New England, that has scheduled such an event," said Peter Somssich, one of the parade organizers, in a prepared statement.
A group of Portsmouth citizens have joined with the city of Portsmouth to co-sponsor this parade celebrating the return of our military personnel from Iraq by thanking the recently returning veterans (from both Afghanistan and Iraq) and everyone who supported them during their deployment, according to Somssich. Several hundred New Hampshire Army and Air National Guard members have served in both wars that began in 2003 following the Sept. 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks. New Hampshire has also had scores of active duty military personnel who have served in both Middle East conflicts.
On Monday afternoon, Somssich said the parade route will begin on Junkins Avenue and head up Pleasant Street, turn right on State Street and left onto Penhallow Street and left onto Daniel Street through Market Square down Congress Street before the parade turns left on Fleet Street, heads back up State State Street and ends on Junkins Avenue.
By agreeing to co-sponsor what will be New Hampshire's first Iraq War Veterans Parade, Somssich said the city will provide the liability insurance for the event, which represents a substantial amount of money.
"As a community, regardless of personal opinions about these military conflicts, we should take this opportunity to come together, say 'welcome home' and celebrate. The Iraq Was has officially ended and this generation of veterans deserves to be welcomed home with the same fanfare as generations in the past. That is why we welcome everyone to participate and make this a positive community parade," said Somssich.
Somssich said that as long as parade participants display messages that show appreciation for those who served in both wars, they will be welcome to march.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and other veterans groups as well as non-veteran organizations have already indicated strong interest in participating, Somssich said.
But Somssich said the parade will be more than just a celebration. The Veterans Administration plans to be in place at the conclusion of the parade to inform returning veterans about benefits and services they have earned, he said.
Parade organizers are also reaching out to local businesses and community groups to help organize a job fair for returning veterans to coincide with the parade. They are also calling on the State of New Hampshire for their support.
"For such a parade to be one we can all be proud of, will require participation by all kinds of groups and organizations. There are many ways to participate. Bands, musicians, volunteers and financial support will be needed. We ask for your support in whatever way you can contribute," Somssich said.
Somssich added that because the City of Portsmouth is cosponsoring this parade, any donations made out to the City of Portsmouth will be tax-deductible.
People are welcome to contact parade organizers for more information to become a sponsor and for instructions about registering to participate in the parade. Here is the parade organizers contact information:
Peter Somssich, Coordinator for Media / Parade Steering Committee (603) 436-5221 (home), (978) 750-1633 (work), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Welcome Home”- End of Iraq War Parade Steering Committee includes:
Josh Denton – President : Coordinator for Veterans Groups and Services, (603) 553-1810, eMail: Joshuaddenton@hotmail.com
Martin Cameron- Vice President : Coordinator for Community Groups/ Individual Registration, (603) 431-7977, eMail: email@example.com
Peter Somssich- Treasurer/Secretary : Coordinator Media and Parade Sponsors, (603) 436-5221, eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Harold Whitehouse- Outreach Coordinator : Coordinator for Bands and Entertainment (603) 436-8485