(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will host a black-tie, state-dinner-style event at the White House to honor Iraq War veterans, administration officials announced Monday.
“It’s really focused on the men and women who served in Iraq, in all stations within the armed services,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. The celebration will occur Feb. 29, two and a half months after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.
The evening will be themed “A Nation’s Gratitude” and is believed to be the first such event of its kind at the White House to mark the end of a major war, a Pentagon official said.
A hand-picked group of roughly 200 attendees selected proportionally from across all service branches and ranks are expected to attend.
At its height, nearly 170,000 troops served during the war there.
Still, some veterans groups and advocates have pressed for a parade in New York City or Washington, D.C., and launched an online petition drive to make the case to the president.
Late last month, St. Louis became the first U.S. city to throw a parade for returned Iraq War veterans — an event that drew more than 100,000 who lined the streets to show their support, according to organizers.
Veterans groups in 10 other cities, including Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Seattle are said to be considering hosting similar events.
More than 1.5 million Americans fought in the nearly nine-year war that cost an estimated $800 billion. The fighting left almost 4,500 Americans dead, 32,000 wounded and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis killed.
About 90,000 U.S. troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.
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