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NYC Parade, Other Tri-State Area Events Mark Veterans Day

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Several events honoring the nation's heroes took place throughout the Tri-State area and across the country Wednesday.

"Today we join together to honor the brave men and women who answered the call of duty and rendered the highest service to our country," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "This Veterans Day, let us each rededicate ourselves to fulfilling our moral obligation to support, honor and take care of our veterans and their families."

PHOTOS: 2015 Veterans Day Parade

The 96th annual New York City Veterans Day parade stepped off on Fifth Avenue, moving from 26th Street up to 52nd Street. This year the parade marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 25th anniversary of Desert Shield.

Grand marshal Robert Morgenthau started things off with a straightforward request at the parade's opening ceremony in Madison Square Park, CBS2's Diane Macedo reported.

"Let's make sure that the veterans of today receive the same support that we received," Morgenthau said.

The World War II veteran and former Manhattan district attorney also shared some life lessons he learned in battle.

"Look for the best in everybody, another was to never trust an expert," Morgenthau said.

De Blasio noted that New York City's veteran community is made up of more than 200,000 vets, some of whom are unemployed, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reported.

"Hire a veteran. It makes all the difference," the mayor said. "Or hire a veteran's spouse because that family needs that help and that opportunity."

The ceremony also included a moment of prayers and the singing of the national anthem. It ended with a wreath ceremony to commemorate the end of World War I, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported, the parade is a very emotional one for many.

"It's a little bit of joy because I get to celebrate with my brothers and it's little bit of sadness because you remember all the people that you've served with," said Marine Master Sgt. Robert Piper. "Over the years we've all lost friends or family members."

"It's Veterans Day, if you get a chance hug a vet and say thank you," said Army veteran Ken Smith.

WEB EXTRA: Best Veterans Day 2015 Events In New York City

Organizers say this year the parade featured more than 250 groups including veterans from all conflicts since World War II. Every year the parade spotlights a specific branch of the military; this year it's the Navy.

"I'm going on my 41st year in the Army," U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen said."When you start hanging around these young men and women who are coming into the Army and are so excited you know that our military is going to be in great hands."

Opportunities to reflect were found around the city, CBS2's Maurice DuBois reported. At the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, two wreaths were laid in the Hudson River to honor veterans and former crew members of the World War II aircraft carrier.

At the 9/11 Memorial, yellow roses were left to honor each veteran killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in a a quiet tribute to servicemen and women who will never be forgotten.

And on Long Island, police officers with the Nassau County Police Department extended a helping hand to those who served.

Cops converged on the Stop & Shop supermarket in Massapequa to collect food donations for military veterans, WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs reported.

"Frozen turkeys, canned goods for the veterans during the holiday season," said Det. Chris Milori.

It's estimated some 3 million veterans across the nation are in need of food assistance, and volunteer and attorney Milan Rada said that's not right.

"It's inconceivable that we have veterans that are homeless, veterans that are hungry," Rada said.

Island Harvest will assist the department in getting the food to veterans.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a 22-year-old local soldier killed in a training exercise last month will be honored during an emotional ceremony.

President Barack Obama placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Obama Veterans DAy
U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a full honor wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Veterans Day November 11, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dozens of restaurants offered free meals to veterans and those on active duty.

Applebee's offered a free dine-in entree from a special menu. Items included the American Standard burger and Fiesta Lime chicken.

At Denny's, those with a valid military ID received a free Grand Slam breakfast until noon.

Participating IHOP locations served a free stack of red, white and blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Beverages and gratuities on the free meals were not included, unless noted.

LINK: Veteran's Day Restaurant Deals

All U.S. Post Offices and New York City public schools were also closed. On Wall Street, the bond market was closed but the stock market remained open.

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