By Sabina Mollot
New York City’s 95th Veterans Day Parade, also known as America’s Parade, took place on Tuesday, attracting crowds of spectators, who, for nearly the entire route along Fifth Avenue, were at least three rows deep.
Many waved flags and all seemed to have as many cheers for the countless stream of veterans and current servicemen and women marching by as for the more high-profile guests.
Those included Mets player Jacob deGrom, who had just been named Rookie of the Year, and former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a parade grand marshal. DeGrom marched alongside his wife Stacey, and Kelly, a former Marine, marched with his wife Veronica, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard reserves. Others marching including Amanda Wirtz, Miss Veteran America 2014, members of different military organizations from around the country and numerous marching bands.
As always, the parade kicked off at Madison Square Park with a memorial ceremony, a wreath laying and shots fired in the air, before heading off to 56th Street.
At the park, several elected officials spoke about veterans issues, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who said more needs to be done to prevent suicide among veterans.
“The rate of suicide is far too high. We need better screenings,” he said, noting that a bill by an Indiana senator, which he’s pushing, is aimed at providing mental health screenings on an annual basis for all military service members. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who marched in the parade but didn’t attend the opening ceremony, spoke at a breakfast event.
He said more was being done to help veterans find jobs with special Workforce1 centers around the city which have placed over 1,000 veterans and spouses of veterans in jobs since January.
Additionally, he said, “They’ve helped more than 3,800 veterans with career counseling and workshops, and they’re expanding services to be available all over the city.”
Other elected officials to attend the parade included Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also there, marching arm in arm with World War II veteran Frederick Carrier, who fought in the invasion of Normandy.
Among the spectators were countless people who held homemade signs saying “Thank you.” Others came bearing photos of deceased veteran family members, like Peter Cooper Village resident Linda Wray.
Wray held a recent photo of her husband, Korean War veteran and U.S. Air Force Colonel Bernard Wray, posing with Mayor Bloomberg. Upon seeing some other Korean War vets milling around the street in the their signature blue jackets, Wray noted, “There are fewer and fewer of them every year. Like the World War II veterans who are in their 90s, the Korean War vets are in their 80s.”
While not a veteran herself, Wray attended wearing a hat that identified her as a member of the local post of the Jewish War Veterans.
The Stuyvesant Town area post, which has marched in the parade in previous years, has opted out for the past couple of years to hold its own, private ceremony in front of the VA Medical Center.