NEW YORK—Over 23,000 people participated in the annual Veteran’s Parade in New York on Wednesday. It was New York's 91st Veteran's Day Parade, in which a special tribute was made to the victims of the massacre in Fort Hood, Texas, last week.
New York has the nation’s largest Veteran's Day Parade, which included over 3,000 active serviceman, military vehicles, military bands, and floats. The parade moved along 5th Ave. from 26th to 57th streets.
In regard to the Fort Hood killing last week, during a speech at the breakfast hosted by Mayor Bloomberg, Major Lee R. Vartigan of the New York Army National Guard said, “All those in uniform today are given special treatment."
“Each year, Veteran’s Day gives us an important opportunity to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have risked all to defend our country and the principles that have shaped its great history,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in a letter to the organizers.
Serviceman and woman from all generations joined the parade.
Among the veterans in the parade was 76-year-old Ed Clansey. Mr. Clansey served on an aircraft carrier from 1951 to 1955 in the Korean War. Mr. Clansey stood for several hours on 27th St. Wednesday morning, waiting until it was time for his unit to enter the parade.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Mr. Clansey said. It was the first time for him to join the New York Veteran's Day Parade, although he has participated in about 30 parades.
Joining the parade for the first time this year was Baldwin Yen. Mr. Yen served in Iraq for 11 months in 2004 as a broadcast journalist for the American Forces Network.
“Every time I saw someone saying, “thank you,” it made me feel good,” Mr. Yen said. “Even if only one person had been there I would be happy.”
He had been standing for four hours before his unit could join the parade. “Having pain in my feet, I could understand their sacrifice,” Mr. Yen said referring to the crowd standing along 5th Ave.
Mr. Yen belongs to the newest veterans, those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
After the parade, IAVA held its annual Veteran’s Day celebration to honor the service of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The event was held at the Plaza hotel, which donated the venue for the celebration.
The organization addresses critical issues facing this new group of veterans and their families. Among the issues is the GI Bill, ensuring educational benefits for the veterans. AIAVA currently has 150,000 members.
Among them was also Jeff Kohler, 23. Mr. Kohler served in Iraq for 11 months, after serving on a navy ship for 3 and a half years. Mr. Kohler served in communications as a radio operator and programmer.
Mr. Kohler spoke about the difficulties he faced, coming back home from Iraq. “There, you need to be on your guard always,” he said, explaining that he carried a pistol on him the whole period he spent in Iraq.
Coming back to America, “I felt so alone when I came back,” he said, wanting to talk with the people around him, but “no one understood.” His meeting with the veterans who also served in Iraq was “meaningful for me, something I have been looking for.”
There is an “unspoken understanding among veterans,” said Mr. Kohler.
He says IAVA helped him return to school. He is now in his first year studying political science at Ohio State University.