ST. LOUIS - An effort is underway to give a hero's welcome to thousands of veterans stopping in St. Louis. They'll be in town for the VFW convention next week. And the plans require the community's help.
The plan is to hold a parade, which will travel from America's Center to Soldier's Memorial. The hope is to have people lining the streets along the way. And helping drive the effort is a man who has had a hero's welcome himself.
That man is Rocky Sickmann. Hundreds of people came to welcome the U.S. Marine home on January 28, 1981. They wore yellow ribbons and carried yellow balloons to celebrate Rocky's return from Iran, where he'd spent 444 dark days as a hostage. That sea of yellow stretched from St. Louis to Washington, Missouri.
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"I came home and there was a parade from the airport all the way out to Washington, which is probably about 65 miles. And there were people all along the way. So I will never forget that," said Sickmann.
Now, Rocky is the Director of Military Sales at Anheuser Busch. And, he's helping lead AB's plans to throw a parade for those who never got a hero's welcome.
"Knowing what I got and hearing the stories of what they got, it's sad," said Sickmann.
So, the hope is to have the same touching turnout the world saw in this year's Budweiser Super Bowl ad.
"Those men and women will never forget this as long as they live," said Sickmann.
And Rocky knows this first hand. Because he says after 444 days in the dark, he remembers vividly that bright sea of yellow… which served as a powerful thank you, from the people he'd served.
"We as Americans cannot forget that freedom is not free," said Sickmann.
The parade will be Tuesday at 5 p.m., starting at the America's Center, where the convention is being held. The route will head west on Washington Ave. from America's Center to Tucker, then south on Tucker to Soldier's Memorial. As part of the convention, Vice President Joe Biden will also be in town. He's help kick off the event on Monday.