Photos by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
Though the temperature hovered in the 20s, patriotic New Yorkers and those who traveled to the city on Saturday made up a steady stream of spectators during the Veterans Day Parade.
As always, the event began at Madison Square Park, where the mayor and military officials gave remarks as did this year’s grand marshal, Buzz Aldrin.
Aldrin, known for his giant leap for mankind on the moon, is also a colonel, who, it was noted as he was being introduced, served many combat missions in Korea.
While at the podium during the parade’s opening ceremony, Mayor Bill de Blasio also recognized Aldrin’s taste in accessories, an American flag-patterned tie and red and white striped socks. “You’ve got style, brother,” de Blasio told him.
Aldrin then addressed a crowd of vets and current service members assembled at the park about his service, on as well as off the planet.
When growing up in Montclair, New Jersey, “Little did I know I would be, as a veteran, coming after the Greatest Generation that I saw as a teenager,” Aldrin said.
He added that he considered himself lucky many times in his life.
“A lot of my comrades in space… the number of us surviving is getting fewer,” he said. “Some of us were fortunate to be able to reach the goal of President Kennedy, reaching the moon… and the first generation to reach Mars is alive today.
“So,” he then instructed his audience, “get your ass to Mars.”
Later, the mayor spoke about his father’s experience as a veteran and how more work was needed to ensure veterans get services they’re entitled to, mental healthcare in particular.
“We have more to do there,” de Blasio said. “We extend a hand to help veterans and their families but not nearly enough.”
He added, “I saw it in my family. My wife Chirlane saw it in hers. Her dad served in Europe. My dad served in the Pacific and they carried it with them. The pride and the love for their comrades and knowing it was for a just cause, but also the pain, the unanswered questions. My dad had only half of one leg. The other half was left in Okinawa.”
After the ceremony, which also included a 21-gun salute and wreath laying at the Eternal Light monument, the parade kicked off on Fifth Avenue from 23rd Street. About 40,000 veterans, active military members and marching bands participated. The featured service at the event was the Air Force, which turned 70 this year.
Along the route, one enthusiastic spectator, Eileen McCann of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, told Town & Village she never misses the parade.
“My father was in World War II, and I just love coming here to show respect for the military,” McCann said. “It’s an amazing parade.”
Veterans Day was also recognized locally with an installation of photographs of service members who’d perished in the line of duty since 9/11. The installation, at Madison Square Park’s south end, called “Remembering Our Fallen,” was the project of Omaha, Nebraska resident Bill Williams and his wife Yvonne. On Saturday, Williams said there were a total of 4,700 photos on display, but he expected the number to grow to about 7,000 “as more pictures come in.” The installation was only up at the park that day before moving on to other cities for a national tour.
Prior to the parade, Williams said “Remembering Our Fallen” was getting a lot of good feedback. “Lots of people have stopped and that’s what we want,” he said.