This years Veterans Day Parade celebrates the 200th anniversary of the "Star Spangled Banner" and has snatched its refrain -- "Land of the Free/Home of the Brave" -- as its theme.
More than 600,000 spectators are expected to view today's parade, officially titled America's Parade, which follows a 1.3 miles route from 25th to 52nd streets up Fifth Ave. and has roots going back to 1919. This year, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, a U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant who commanded combat troops in Vietnam before retiring from the Marine Corps Reserves as a colonel, will serve as grand marshal.
Veterans attribute considerable significance to the parade, said Matthew Basso, 31, vice-president of The Armed Forces Club at the College of Staten Island. Basso, a psychology major, and 149 other CUNY student veterans will escort Mayor Bill deBlasio to the reviewing stand before he doubles back to join a float of CUNY veterans.
Basso, who did two stints in Iraq as a Marine, attaining the rank of sergeant, said the parade was not only a veteran networking opportunity, but assured veterans that the public supported and appreciated their service.
"The first year it was just enjoyable, but last year changed it for me," said Basso, who is marching for the third year Tuesday Last year, he went up "to all the veterans on the sidelines who took time out to come and watch, and to thank them, too."
As a veteran marcher in America's Parade, Basso also had a spectator tip: The blocks nearest and north of the review stand at 41st street are typically the most crowded, so if you need a viewpoint with unimpeded vision, your best chance of getting one is on the southern end of the route.