HIAWATHA, Iowa - The city of Hiawatha put plans in place on Friday to mark the return of Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta to eastern Iowa.
President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Giunta earlier this week at the White House. And city leaders in Hiawatha have decided a parade was the best way to say "welcome home" to a hometown hero.
The parade planned to honor Giunta will take place Tuesday, November 23rd at 5:00 p.m. The parade route will run along Hiawatha City Hall on West Emmons Street and wind up at Guthridge Park.
Following the hour-long parade, the city will host an invitation-only reception for the Medal of Honor recipient at the Hiawatha Community Center. The event in Giunta's home town will follow a meeting with Governor Chet Culver and a public ceremony in the State Capitol rotunda. Governor Culver earlier proclaimed Tuesday, November 23rd as Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta Day in the state.
Hiawatha Mayor Tom Theis said the military told him to expect 500 to a thousand people at a parade. In addition, the mayor said there has been talk of a more permanent honor for Giunta in the city of Hiawatha. The list could include things like renaming a city street. But Theis said nothing's decided yet.
"No, there are some thoughts already and I'm not at liberty to discuss them. I am pretty sure there will be some other things done in the future," Theis said.
Kennedy High School students and parents are being encouraged to wear school colors along the route in honor of Giunta who is a Kennedy grad. In addition, the city of Hiawatha is sponsoring a "Welcome Home" sign contest for the parade. The winner will receive $100 from the city and be selected from the signs displayed along the route.
Hiawatha city leaders said more details may emerge as the planning progresses. But those hoping to park at city hall for the parade may need to plan for a crowd. In addition to the parade for SSgt. Giunta, the city of Cedar Rapids will have its regular council meeting at the same time at the Hiawatha council chambers. That meeting can't change location or time due to legal requirements for some previously scheduled public hearings.