WASHINGTON – The White House announced Monday that it will host a formal dinner honoring troops who served in the Iraq War on Feb. 29, and that representatives from both the enlisted and officer ranks will be invited to the event.
Administration officials said the tribute will also feature Pentagon officials, but offered few other details. The event is designed to be “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.”
Administration and Defense Department officials said they believe the formal dinner will be an unprecedented event by the White House, normally reserved for foreign dignitaries.
On Monday, officials from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America called the dinner event "interesting" but continued their push for a more public recognition of the end of the nearly nine-year war, such as a ticker-tape parade in New York City. White House officials have resisted that effort so far, saying it would be inappropriate while troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.
Details of who will get invites to the event will be made available in coming weeks, according to a White House release.
UPDATE: Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs Chairman, in an e-mail offered this further explanation of why defense officials aren’t backing the idea of a parade for Iraq veterans:
“We simply don't think a national-level parade is appropriate while we continue to have America's sons and daughters in harm's way. While U.S. military operations in Iraq ended on Dec 31, 2011, we still have tens of thousands of service members and civilians engaged in combat and support operations in Afghanistan. Many of those serving in Afghanistan at present also served in Iraq.
“A national-level parade in New York City to honor Iraq veterans wouldn't harm our efforts in Afghanistan but we feel it would be inappropriate at this time given on-going deployments and combat operations there.
“In contrast, when New York City hosted a ticker tape parade to mark the successful end of Operation Desert Storm, there were no other large scale combat operations underway. The circumstances are different today.”
Dempsey also posted his thoughts on the White House dinner on his facebook feed.