Austin to welcome home, honor Iraq War veterans

The City of Austin will hold a parade and job resource fair to welcome home Iraq War veterans and provide them with job opportunities and services July 7.

The parade is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and is to proceed along Congress Avenue from Cesar Chavez Street to the Capitol. The ceremony is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol, and the job and resource fair is to run from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Capitol Extension.

The city is cosponsoring the event with the Welcome Home Iraq Veterans Committee, a group comprised of Austin-area citizens, both veterans and nonveterans, who united to help returning veterans, according to a news release from the group.

"The war was officially over on December 15, 2011," said David Thomas, a member of the Welcome Home Iraq Veterans Committee. "It's time to welcome them home."

The ceremony will honor three Iraq veterans who have been involved in services for fellow veterans since they returned from Iraq, said Conor Kenny, chairman of the Welcome Home Iraq Veterans Committee.

The ceremony will also honor a contingent of the Wounded Warrior Project and hold a memorial for the Central Texas service members who died in Iraq. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-District 25; and state Rep. Donna Howard, D-District 48, are scheduled to speak.

The job and resource fair will provide veterans with job opportunities and services from state and federal agencies and nonprofits, according to the news release. More than 100 employers and service providers will be in attendance, such as government agencies at the state and federal levels and many central Texans employers, Kenny said.

"Everybody knows that it is July, and we're coming from a parade, so nobody needs to dress up," he added. "Bringing a resume and discharge papers would be helpful, but it's not required."

People attending the parade are asked to bring cards, letters or nonperishable treats, according to the news release. The event will hold an assembly station along the parade route to make care packages for Central Texas soldiers in Afghanistan. Some suggested items are mints, trail mix, individually wrapped cookies and candy, lip balm, travel-size toothpaste, baby wipes, and activities such as playing cards and travel-size board games.

The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Texas Veterans Assistance Program in Central Texas, which will operate and collect funds along the route. The committee hopes to raise $16,000 and has already reached more than 75 percent of its goal, Kenny said. Any additional funds raised will also go to the assistance program.

The Welcome Home Iraq Veterans Committee is still looking for volunteers to staff the care package tables and is still accepting parade and job fair entries. For more information, visit www.welcomehomeiraqveterans.org.



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