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© The Associated Press/Jeff Roberson
Participants in a parade to honor Iraq War veterans make their way along a downtown street Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in St. Louis. Thousands turned out to watch the first big welcome home parade in the U.S. since the last troops left Iraq in December.
Thousands of people have turned out in St. Louis for the nation's first big parade welcoming home Iraq War veterans.

Several hundred veterans, many dressed in camouflage, marched Saturday afternoon through downtown along with marching bands, politicians and even the Budweiser Clydesdales.

But the biggest cheers clearly were for the veterans themselves. The crowd wildly cheered as groups walked by, and some veterans wiped away tears as they acknowledged the support.

People in the crowd waved American flags and held signs reading, "Welcome Home" and "God Bless Our Troops." Fire trucks with aerial ladders hoisted three huge American flags along the route.

Two St. Louis men launched a grass-roots effort to hold the parade after noticing there'd been no large public celebrations to welcome troops home.