Clovis to host West Coast's first vets' welcome home parade

Clovis welcome home parade for military veterans Sept. 8.Clovis welcome home parade for military veterans Sept. 8.Organizers of a Sept. 8 welcome home parade for Valley veterans are seeking support from the business community for what they say is a first-of-its-kind event for the West Coast.

The parade is scheduled to step off at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Facility at Fourth Street and Hughes Avenue at 9:30 a.m., with pre-parade ceremonies beginning at 9 a.m. A job and resource fair for veterans will be held inside the memorial hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Marti Nicely, a parade organizer, said she expects up to 5,000 visitors for the event, which would be the first such parade held on the West Coast, she added. Other welcome home events have been held this year in Austin, Tex., St. Louis and Portsmouth, N.H.

The timing of such events has been a point of controversy with some, with the Pentagon advising New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this year it was too early to hold a welcome home parade there with troops still in Afghanistan.

Nicely thinks the timing is just right, citing the rate of suicide among veterans returned home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rate spiked to an average of one suicide per day this year, or 154 in the first half of the year, compared to 136 who died in combat in Afghanistan in the same period, according to a report from the New York Times.

"For the kids still in Afghanistan, we will do it again when they come home," Nicely said. "These people need to be thanked now."

Nicley and a grassroots committee of organizers have just made their plans public, and hope to raise up to $10,000 to host the event. She said the two biggest donations so far are from Educational Employees Credit Union with $1,000 and Fresno Coin Gallery with $500.

Organizers are also seeking businesses interested in participating in the job and resource fair.

The parade will include veterans who served in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq along with their spouses. Army Sgt. Justin Bond will serve as grand marshall. Bond lost his left leg during an ambush in Iraq, and now works to assist other veterans through his nonprofit, http://www.ourheroesdreams.org

For more information about how to sponsor the event, participate in the job fair or submit an entry, visit http://www.veterans-welcomehome.org/