The women and men of the armed services received a Big Apple cheer Wednesday with the 96th annual Veterans Day parade.
More than 20,000 participants, which included current and former soldiers from various branches, marched up Fifth Avenue before cheering crowds. Those who came out to celebrate said they wanted to show their appreciation to the nation’s heroes on the greatest stage in the world
“I’m proud of all the groups out there,” said Karen Quintero, 36, of Long Island, who joined her husband Eric, 44, an Army veteran, and their two children Olivia, 7, and Ethan, 4.
Those who marched said they were honored to be part of the parade, because it reminded them what they fight for.
Lt. Cmdr. Dirk Sonnenberg, who is assigned to the U.S.S. New York, said he and his crew members received an extra show of gratitude because they represent the city overseas.
“This ship has steel from the World Trade Center,” he said as he marched in the parade. “This is a big deal to us and it’s great to know everyone is appreciative.”
The parade marked two significant military milestones, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War. The parade began with the laying of wreaths at the Eternal Light Monument in Madison Square Park where several generations of veterans somberly gathered.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials thanked the men and women for fighting for New Yorkers’ freedom and pledged to help them with their needs. Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, a World War II Navy veteran, was the parade’s grand marshal and recalled how he and his comrades pulled together and had a common purpose.
“I learned a number of lessons from my service … one was to look for the best in everybody,” said Morgenthau, 96.
Veterans said they were enthralled by the show of appreciation and said the rest of the nation looks at the city’s parade as a prime example on how to honor service members.
“New York does everything the right way, no question about it,” said Frank Corso, 69, a former Marine who grew up in Manhattan but now lives in Montclair, New Jersey.