White House Bash for Iraq Vets

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Troops who served in Iraq will be invited to celebrate on Feb. 29

President Obama has brought the troops home from Iraq, meaning it’s apparently time to celebrate. A week after St. Louis held what is being described at the first parade to honor Iraq vets, others cities (even the Big Apple) – and the Executive Mansion – are getting into the act:

On Wednesday, February 29, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host a dinner at the White House to honor our Armed Forces who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn and to honor their families. This dinner — an expression of the nation’s gratitude for the achievements and enormous sacrifices of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq War and of the families who supported them — will include men and women in uniform from all ranks, services, states and backgrounds, representative of the many thousands of Americans who served in Iraq.

…the White House said Monday.

“I think `state dinner’ probably is not quite accurate,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said when reporters asked him what the meal would be like, conceding “I don’t have any dress or menu or entertainment” yet. Details, he said, will come soon.

While troubles continue to mount inside Iraq, at least now they belong to somebody else (the degree to which the U.S. was the catalyst for such volatility and violence will be debated for years, and will ultimately determine how history judges the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein).

“These heroes, and those they represent, have sacrificed to defend our nation and provide the Iraqi people an opportunity for a peaceful and secure future,” added Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I’m proud of their courage and appreciate this appropriate recognition of their service.”

The troops always like acknowledgement. Some will welcome the apparently unprecedented step of White House invites going out to troops. But others will no doubt carp that it’s too political a move in an election year, especially given Obama’s criticism of the war when he was running for the job of commander-in-chief.

Nonetheless, such public recognition is always warranted but too rarely given. Battleland recalls fondly taking his two young sons to the National Mall in 1991 to herald the troops celebrating victory in the Persian Gulf War. It made an impression: they still mention how an F-15 got stuck trying to make a sharp turn near the Lincoln Memorial (it was on the ground at the time).