Fifth Avenue turned into a sea of patriotic pride Monday at the 94th annual Veterans Day parade, where New Yorkers honored the men and women who served our country.
The celebration brought in 44,000 veterans from all the armed forces to pay tribute to the nation's defenders of freedom.
This year's grand marshals included Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the nation's first female four-star general, who retired last year after 37 years of service. Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi also was a marshal.
"Back in 1919, when 'Black Jack' Pershing brought his army up Fifth Avenue, the city was in a hotbed of social activism and patriotism," said Vietnam veteran Sgt. Vincent McGowan, who addressed several hundred people at the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Madison Square Park.
McGowan, president of the United War Veterans Council, said having the parade in New York City is fitting. "Historically, New York City has always reached its goals and sustained, just like our nation," he said, referring to 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was given a painting in recognition of his support for the United War Veterans Council, was heckled by a man who yelled a profanity and was quickly removed from the ceremony.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio also addressed the audience.
He spoke about his father, who served in World War II and who lost a leg: "He carried the physical and emotional challenges ever after," de Blasio said.
The event was a reminder of the first parade, when 25,000 veterans marched the same route after the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.
To commemorate them, several dozen men dressed in 1919 brown fatigues led the procession yesterday.
World War II veteran Hebert A. Starr, 96, said after the ceremony, "It's a proud and significant day. Without us, this country would not exist."