Veterans kept out of parade claim they were targeted over politics

A group of Iowa veterans claim they were unfairly left out of an annual parade in their honor.

The parade Monday morning at the Iowa State Fair went on as scheduled without an entry by the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans' Caucus.

“When one veteran tells another veteran that he can’t be represented at the last minute like that it’s just disrespectful," said Ron Healey, Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party Veterans Caucus. "This is unforgivable it really is.”

Healey said the group followed proper application protocol and were initially approved before being told at 2:30 p.m. Friday that it no longer would be allowed to participate in the event because the group was part of a political organization.

The official who told the group they could not participate was Dan Gannon, chair of the Iowa Commission on Veterans' Affairs, which organizes the annual Veterans' Day Parade event at the Iowa State Fair.

He said an administrative assistant must have given the initial OK to the Iowa Democratic party Veterans' Caucus' application but that it was an oversight, and apologized that the notice was last minute. He insisted, though, that it was the commission's view that event is nonpartisan, which is why the political group was not allowed to participate.

“I welcome veterans Democrats and Republicans but we need to do it together and not talk partisan politics," Gannon said.

The group participated in the 2007, 2008 and 2015 parades without any problems, said the Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Tess Seger.

Troy Price, the Iowa Democratic Party Chair, was quick to lash out at the decision by the Commission of Veterans Affairs.

“I think that it shows that this administration is not one that wants to hear criticism," Price said. "The governor and this administration doesn’t want to see bad news or people who have dissenting opinions. We just saw the head of the medical commission last week that didn’t get reappointed because he was speaking truth to power, and now this. It’s incredibly disappointing and I hope voters remember this in November.”

The official who made the decision said he decided to bar the group because they are a political organization and the event is nonpartisan. But the group claims they have marched several other years in the past, and claim other groups, including Veterans for Peace, were allowed to march in the parade.

Governor Kim Reynolds was asked about the group's removal shortly after the parade.

"The Commission of Veterans Affairs acts independently of the Governor’s Office. The Governor’s Office had no input into or knowledge of the commission’s decision. The Veterans’ Day Parade is a nonpartisan event, and no political organizations participated today,": said Governor Reynolds spokeswoman, Brenna Smith, in a statement. "The governor wholeheartedly supports all veterans and believes the commission should make the expectation of a nonpartisan event clear up front and to prevent a similar distraction in the future."

In the hours after the parade, the controversy spiraled into a political back and forth between Republican and Democratic leaders.

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