- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Daily News on the proposal to hold a parade in Manhattan for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

April 14.

The war in Iraq, begun in 2003, is over. The war in Afghanistan, the longest military conflict in our history, will end in December.

Their ends look and feel different from those of many other conflicts the nation has endured. No peace treaties signed on the decks of ships, or banner headlines declaring victory, or warm embraces of those who fought them by a grateful nation.


We can change at least one of those facts - with a seismic outpouring of gratitude in the Canyon of Heroes, where America’s best have been honored over the generations. That was the brilliant idea suggested Sunday by Sen. Chuck Schumer and seconded by Mayor de Blasio.

Some of us know the names and stories of the 6,802 American men and women who have died in these foreign lands, or of those who have earned medals of honor and valor there.

The names and stories of those who have left us and returned to resume their places in our communities - numbering more than 2.5 million - are less commonly recalled. Of those, some 400,000 were deployed three or more times. Some 37,000 have been deployed more than five times.

Service, sacrifice. We mouth the words so often, we risk forgetting what they mean.

To say goodbye to your family - often to a new spouse, a young child. To travel thousands of miles to strange places. To be away for nine months, 12 months, sometimes as long as 15 months. To know as you do that you may not return, and if you do return, it may well be with wounds, visible and invisible. Thanking these volunteers takes many urgent forms: quality health care, including mental health care; educational assistance; job opportunities.

But symbols matter, too. They matter profoundly, especially for wars that have often driven political divisions among the populace at large.

So let New York City reach out to every soldier, sailor, marine and airman. Let them travel up the same path that astronauts and Olympians and heroes from previous wars have traveled. It will be ever more fitting for these veterans, for they will travel past the hallowed site, now being reborn, where terrorists launched their ignominious war on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, killing more than 2,700 in the World Trade Center attacks.

Let them wave to cheering crowds and feel showers of confetti on their faces.

It is not the most we can do. It is the very least.

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