NEW YORK -- Thousands of people braved the messyFriday to line Fifth Avenue and salute the courageous men and women who served our country.
New York City's Veterans Day Parade is the nation's largest commemoration of service. More than 20,000 marchers were expected.
Before the parade, Mayor Eric Adams and Vincent Patton, this year's grand marshal, took part in a special wreath laying ceremony in Madison Square Park.
Rain doesn't phase thousands at NYC's 103rd Veterans Day Parade
From bagpipes and American flags, to the marchers and thousands who lined Fifth Avenue to cheer America's veterans, the city's parade was back Friday for the 103rd time, CBS2's Jennifer Bisram reported.
"Supporting the military is so important and that's why we are here today," said Donna Ray.
World War II veteran Arthur Grabiner has participated in 34 parades.
"I'm still alive and kicking," said Grabiner, 96. "I was in World War II, I was in the Navy on the attack transport ship. We had the landing craft that took the troops in."
"Today's an important day because it allows us to all get together, honor the sacrifices of everyone that has served and wore the uniform," said Antoinette Wallace, a veteran.
The parade included 300 marching units, 20,000 marchers and 25 patriotic floats. Some families even joined their heroes along the parade route.
"They said that families could walk and we said let's take advantage of the opportunity," said Jamie Billert.
"We're still united, regardless of all the things that's going on in the world right now. We're still united," said Pierre Ford.
Elected officials, celebrities and kids stood in the rain to honor the men and women who served with strength and courage.
"He needs to know that other people sacrificed for what he has," said Thomas Tone.
Marchers and spectators said they wouldn't let the rain stop them from saluting the men and women who served and continue to serve.
Veterans Day observed across region
Veterans Day observances were held across the area.
Yonkers held its annual event Friday morning at the Veteran's Memorial Plaza. Many veterans were on hand and recognized, remembered and honored for their service.
In New Jersey, a ceremony honoring veterans was held inside the Vietnam Era Museum in Holmdel. During the ceremony, several townships and businesses across the state were presented with the "We Value Our Veterans" community award for their support of veterans.
Mayor Adams thanks veterans and their family members
Mayor Eric Adams delivered remarks Friday morning at the annual Veterans Day Breakfast before the parade. He thanked the veterans and their families.
"We know what you represent. We know how much you give, how much you sacrifice. Each time your loved ones serve this country, you too serve this country, and we thank you for what you do as well," Adams said.
The mayor says we enjoy the freedoms we have because of the sacrifices of the men and women in the military.
Veterans offer firsthand account of experiences
CBS2 photojournalist Sean McKenna went to Scotch Plains, New Jersey, to get firsthand accounts from veterans on the exact day and time World War I ended.
Somber opening ceremony
The parade's opening ceremony was somber, as usual, as it honored the sacrifice and service of brave men and women, CBS2's John Dias reported.
It started with a moment of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, representing when fighting in World War II officially stopped.
It was followed by the traditional laying of wreaths at the Eternal Light Flagstaff in Madison Square Park by foreign allies, veteran representatives and senior military leaders.
When it comes to the parade, the nation's largest commemoration of service, there will likely be 20,000 participants from across America representing every service branch of the military.
"I'm a Marine Corps veteran. I served 1991 to 1995. Our ability to come home and then be recognized, it really is it's humbling. It's a very special day for us," said Nick Angione, chairman of the United War Veterans Council, which produces the parade.
"To call myself a combat veteran of three wars and so many other conflicts," said Air Force veteran Kevin Gill, "if you could only see what I see in my head. Everything comes back, starting when I was 20 years old and flying in Vietnam ... It gives me a strong sense of, well, being proud."
The three-hour parade steps off at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue and marches up to 45th Street, which means plenty of roads will be blocked off along the way. It starts at around 12:30 p.m.
CBS2 along the route
CBS2's John Dias snapped a photo with grand marshal Vincent Patton III in the Flatiron District.
Grand marshal beaming with pride
CBS2's John Dias catches up with Vincent Patton III about the honor of leading this year's parade and his connection to our very own Cindy Hsu.
Honoring our heroes
It's one of the greatest ways to say thanks to our veterans -- honoring them with a parade in the nation's largest commemoration of service.
There will likely be 20,000 participants from across America, representing every service branch of the military.
"I am still waking up in the morning pinching myself, wanting to know when is the dream going to end," this year's grand marshal, Vincent Patton III, told CBS2.
Patton was the first Black American to serve as master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, the highest enlisted position for that branch of the military.
"My dad was a Coast Guard pilot, served for 30 years, as well," Hsu told Patton.
"I know him," Patton replied. "We served at headquarters together."
The three-hour parade starts at 12:30 p.m., stepping off at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, marching up to 45th Street, which means there will be plenty of roads blocked off.
We at CBS2 have been honoring our veterans all week for their sacrifice and service. We were there toand the men and woman who are a part of it, retired and active.
"These proud sailors and Marines serve our nation, and we have a responsibility to support them," Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro said.
On Long Island, we were there when Nassau County officials hosted a salute to some heroes who don't always get the recognition they deserve -- women veterans.
"It takes a certain bravery to join the armed forces, and it takes a lot of bravery to join when you're a woman," said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly.
We were also there when many paid tribute tothat helped win the war. Those tanks are now 80 years old, and the veterans that rode them to victory are in their late 90s.
"It brings back a lot of memories. I spent day and night," 96-year-old veteran Jim Adreadis said as he remembered barreling through Germany. "It was tough for an 18-year-old, and I don't know how I survived."
The grand marshal said when it comes to today's rain, it's going to be OK. Since the Coast Guard is the service being featured this year, they're used to being wet and wouldn't have it any other way.
Meet the grand marshal
This year's grand marshal will be Vince Patton, the first Black American to serve as master chief petty officer of the U.S. Coast Guard. It's the highest enlisted position for that branch of the military.
He spoke with CBS2's Cindy Hsu about the honor and tells her they share a surprise connection.
Parade route & street closures
- West 24th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- West 25th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- West 26th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- East 26th Street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue
- West 27th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- West 28th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 5th Avenue between West 23rd Street and West 26th Street
- Broadway between 5th Avenue and West 29th Street
- 5th Avenue between Broadway and East 45th Street
- West 45th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- East 45th Street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue