By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Inspired by the success of a last-minute parade for Iraq War veterans last month in St. Louis, Killeen resident Michael Rodcay wants to organize one here.
"I've got 40 percent of the job done; all the legwork is complete," said Rodcay, who is trying to build interest in a "Killeen Thank the Heroes" parade planned for April 20 downtown.
"Doing something says 'thank you' a lot louder than doing nothing," he said, adding he's got a Facebook page dedicated to the parade and already has recruited several area sponsors, including H-E-B and Waco 100 radio. "I just feel that the three- to six-year soldier who deployed their first time to Iraq deserves that recognition, just the city behind them, saying, 'Thank you.'"
Rodcay, a staff sergeant assigned to III Corps at Fort Hood, said he visited the Area Veterans Advisory Committee on Feb. 11 to present his plan as a private citizen, not a soldier. He said he was advised to find a "grass-roots organization" to back his idea, and is trying to find one.
The committee sponsors Killeen's annual Veterans Day parade. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Don Fender, its vice chairman, said Monday he advised Rodcay on behalf of the council to partner with an area veterans organization, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Disabled American Veterans, to help him garner support.
The parade idea could be a good one, Fender said, but Rodcay "needs to go through a member organization, not just make his presentation in a lone voice" before the committee can vote on whether to support it.
Theron Johnson, president of Disabled American Veterans Organization chapter No. 147, said Monday he would consider backing such a parade, particularly because there was no such parade at the end of the Gulf War.
"They didn't have anything, just a welcome home ceremony (at Fort Hood)," he said.
When and if Rodcay gets backers, it's unclear whether Fort Hood will clear its soldiers to participate. Earlier this month, the Pentagon expressed a preference for communities to wait until all veterans are home, including those in Afghanistan, before holding such celebrations.
"The question is not whether to have a parade, but when to do so," said Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, in a statement.
Because Iraq War veterans could deploy again to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, he said, the consensus among military and other groups was "that kind of event should wait and that it should be more appropriately held when combat troops were coming home."
But Rodcay said waiting too long will be a missed opportunity.
"You want to tell me to wait two years? The soldiers who deployed to Iraq and their families in two years are going to be (moving) and be at their next assignment," he said. "How (am) I supposed to say 'thank you' then, not only to the service members, but also to their families?"
A separate parade for veterans of the war in Afghanistan should be held when that conflict is over, he said. "Why not recognize them three or four times?"
Fort Hood did not respond to earlier requests for comment on this topic.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.
About the parade
For more information on the "Killeen Thank the Heroes" parade, go to the Killeentx Thanktheheroes Facebook page.