Obama set to honor Iraq War veterans with state dinner, but some looking for more

Here and Now

President Barack Obama is hosting a state dinner Wednesday night for select, returning Iraq War veterans.

It’s meant to be a gesture of appreciation for the service rendered by them and their thousands of comrades. But some veterans groups say their should be parades in New York or Washington to welcome them home, while the Defense Department says it would be inappropriate, given the thousands of American soldiers still serving in Iraq.

Jason Hansman, membership director for Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America, is among those who will be at the White House dinner. He served in Mosul, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. He said it’s an amazing feeling to be invited to the White House.

“I”m humbled and excited to be there to represent the one million veterans of Iraq,” Hansman said.

Though he too would like to see some sort of parade or nation-wide celebration of the veterans who served in Iraq.

“They want to do it in a big fashion across the country so that all the veterans of Iraq across the country can participate, and not just 200 in a state dinner,” Hansman said.

He said the country at large recognizes the sacrifices made by the troops in Iraq and wants to recognize them, but in many cases doesn’t know how. He cited a parade held in St. Louis last month for Iraq War veterans as just one example of how much Americans do want to honor the troops who served and welcome them home.

He said some sort of national day of action to honor Iraq War veterans could be modeled on the parade in St. Louis.

“Welcome them home in a parade or some other kind of fashion, but also connecting them with resources,” Hansman said. “It’s more than just about a one-off parade or even a one-off dinner.”

The greatest issue, though, facing Iraq War veterans right now is jobs, Hansman said. With unemployment where it is, that’s the number one focus.

“At the same time, we’re focused on education, making sure the G.I. Bill is working for our vets,” Hansman said. “And also suicide. Suicide is way too high among the veterans returning home and we’re laser-focused on that as well.”

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