HOUSTON -

After nine years of fighting in Iraq, American soldiers are coming home and Houston Mayor Anise Parker said it is a good reason to celebrate.

Mayor Parker, along with Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane, announced the celebration will involve a parade in downtown.

On April 7 at 4 p.m., the parade will begin at Texas and San Jacinto streets in downtown Houston and continue right inside Minute Maid Park for a special ceremony before the Astros game.

"Houston has one of the largest veterans populations in the country. This is our opportunity as Houstonians to come forward and not do something we do every year, and not do something that is routine, but a special opportunity to say thank you to veterans who served in Iraq and are now coming home," Parker said.

Crane said it is fitting to celebrate America's heroes while getting ready to watch America's favorite pastime.

The Astros are coordinating with the city's veteran's affairs program to provide free tickets to the game for all of the uniformed parade participants and their immediate families. Iraq veterans interested in the free tickets should contact the Houston Veteran's Affairs Office.

"We have great baseball fans and we really need to reach out and do as much as we can for these veterans," said Crane.

The Astros are offering discount tickets for other family members and friends, as well as other veterans organizations. You can find more information at www.astros.com.

As for the soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan, Parker promised a parade for them when the time comes.

"I am looking forward to the day when we can say thanks to those who have been in Afghanistan, as well," Parker said.