President Donald Trump honored those who served and sacrificed in the armed forces at this year’s 100th annual Veterans Day Parade which was a sea of flag waving admirers for the thousands of veterans in marching down Fifth Avenue Monday.
Trump, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, stayed on script and recognized some of his antagonists, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer. His son Eric Trump even approached the mayor, shaking his hand at the start of the event.
Trump kicked off the parade in Madison Square Park behind bullet proof glass and surrounded by an army of law enforcement, calling the many veterans in attendance, “the greatest warriors who ever walked the face of the Earth.”
“Our veterans risked everything for us. Now it is our duty to serve and protect them every day of our lives,” Trump told an audience of about 250 people, including veterans and their families, including several surviving World War II veterans and legendary Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
Trump noted that it was fitting for the Veterans Day parade to begin in New York City, even though he changed his residency to Florida only last month. He said that after 9/11, “the whole world saw the horror and responded to America’s wicked enemies with unwavering courage, unbreakable spirit and resolve that is deeper than oceans, fiercer than fires and stronger than steel.”
Trump also thanked the military for killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in Syria.
“Thanks to American warriors, al-Baghdadi is dead, his second-in-charge is dead. We have our eyes on No. 3. His reign of terror is over and his people are running very, very scared,” he said.
President Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to attend the New York City Veterans Day commemoration. In addition to his speech, he took part in the wreath-laying ceremony at Eternal Light Memorial — two Marines accepted the wreath from the president as he and his wife remained behind the bullet proof glass.
While protestors against the president were kept at a good distance, some could still be heard even two blocks away. Residents of one building next to the park displayed banners that read, “IMPEACH” and the word “CONVICT,” both easily seen from the park.
Protestors outside the security perimeter of the park where the President spoke had acerbic words for Trump.
Eliot Fromm and Bernardo Issel of Manhattan were dressed in military garb, making fun of the president with “Operation Bone Spur,” for Trump’s reason for getting out of the draft, but also opposing war.
“We have to bring peace, but we also have to get rid of the crud in the Whitehouse, but not replace him with another crud,” Fromm said.
Jenneck Wallace, 85, of Manhattan, stood with her sign that proclaimed, “Trump Betrayed our Troops.” The mother of eight and grandmother to 17 children, said she’s been attending protests all her life and she feels strongly about the president.
“We have to protest because God knows what will happen if he gets another term — we cannot afford him for him to be President again,” Wallace said.
Trump supporters were also in attendance and waved their signs in support.
Judy Byrne of Bensonhurst said it was important to support the president.
“He was duly elected and he has brought jobs to this country — that is something we needed and he will make this a great country again. These other people are just plain wrong,” Byrne said.
Lionel Podell of Park Slope, Brooklyn, an army vet, held a sign along the route that said, “Trump Charity Cheated Veterans — You Do Not Belong Here, Donald — Shame'”
“We have gotta stop the wars, but we also have to stop Donald Trump,” Podell said.
Joey Paksi, a Marine, walked the parade with his daughter Zoe Ray, and said it was important for children to understand the what it means to be a veteran. But his daughter summed it up saying, “you come here to honor the Marines that fought for this country. You can see and parade with them and if you got a dad in the Marines, he can come too.”
Colonel Jon Mendes, even at age 99, was walking in the parade — proud to have fought in WWII, Korea and even in Vietnam along side the French in the early 1960s. Col. Mendes called it a great day, for veterans, but that he was still here to see it.
“I’m the luckiest SOB you ever met,” he said. “Every morning I go for a 40 minute walk in Central Park and I look up and I say, here I am God,” said Col. Mendes, one of the few remaining WWII veterans still attending the parade.