Originally Posted by BigRedChief
Parade is tommorrow.
ST. LOUIS • A downtown parade to honor Iraq war veterans stepped off at noon today at Kiener Plaza.
Thousands of people lined the parade route on Market Street, cheering, waving American flags and holding signs "Welcome Home."
Christine Willey of Webster Groves was one of those along the parade route. Her nephew served in Afghanistan and was wounded in Iraq when his Humvee was hit by an explosive.
"I think he would appreciate it a lot," she said of the parade. Her nephew, of Wentzville, who suffered brain injuries, was unable to attend the parade.
Tom Appelbaum, one of the parade organizers, said the parade "pretty much matches what I would have expected." He said he was "feeling great."
The parade follows a vigil which began Friday at 9:11 p.m. at Soldier's Memorial in downtown. Volunteers read the names of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have died in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales and St. Louis police and fire departments are joining 83 floats in the parade.
Mayflower, which donated $7,500 to the parade effort, is collecting items for homeless veterans in a storage container at 13th and Market streets. They are asking for sleeping bags, blankets, non-perishable food items, and winter coats.
the organizers, Appelbaum and Craig Schneider, said St. Louis is the first major city to welcome troops home from Iraq since the war officially ended on Dec. 15.
Inside Union Station until 5 p.m., organizers are offering a "resource village," where veterans can connect with service providers such as the Red Cross or Department of Veterans Affairs. Live music is planned from 3 to 8 p.m.
Marine Sgt. Alex Renner, 22,(right) from Red Bud, Ill. shakes hands with well wishers during a parade to welcome home Iraq war veterans along Market Street in St. Louis on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012. "I feel good because they have our back" said Renner about the reception he received from the crowd. Renner served one tour in Iraq from 2008-2009.