Reporting John Montone
NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/WCBS 880) — Several generations of military servicemen and women from various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces were celebrating, reminiscing and above all, honoring the fallen on this Veterans Day.
LINK: Veterans Day Guide 2010
Tens of thousands of marchers paraded up Fifth Avenue on Thursday in a Veterans Day tribute honoring those serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as those who wore the uniform during conflicts including World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“It’s a feeling of camaraderie first that we’re even here now to stand here to honor Veterans Day, as well as our fallen. It keeps us going year after year after year. That makes it all worthwhile,” said Stan Wright, a Bronx native and Vietnam War veteran.
Staten Island resident Marie DeVito said over the last several years she’s noticed a stronger sense of warmth and support for the military.
“I think they’re embracing it much more, ever since the 9/11 episode, and the terrorists, and the wars that’s going on. And I really think they’re really appreciating our servicemen much more,” she said.
On display was a living symbol for our nation, along with a few tools of the trade, including a scaled-down version of a C-17 cargo plane.
“I go back to World War II. I look forward to this every year,” said veteran Sid Plank.
Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were on hand at the parade’s opening ceremony held at the Eternal Light Monument at Madison Square Park before the march up Fifth Avenue.
Paterson, speaking at the service, noted that veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq today are treated far better than those who fought in the Vietnam War.
“However you felt about the war, we did not treat the war veterans right,” he said. “The government didn’t provide them with the services they needed, and they weren’t given the dignity and respect.”
Former Yankees infielder and San Diego Padres Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman, 86, is the parade’s grand marshal. Coleman served in both WWII and the Korean War.
“The five most important years of my life have been my time in the service,” Coleman said.
On Wall Street, Marine Corps Brigadier General Steven W. Busby and other members of the armed forces, joined several former Navajo “code talkers” in ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. The code talkers created an unbreakable code from their ancient language and transmitted secret communications in the Pacific theater during World War II.
A Hudson River wreath-laying will be part of an afternoon ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
On Long Island, a Sherman tank used in World War II was dedicated at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale.
“Heroes are the guys who gave up their life where I still have mine. All the participants here, we’re all part of a big family. You got to understand that. It does the heart good,” one Vietnam vet said.
Nearly 1,000 students, who warmed up Wednesday in Times Square for the annual “Band of Pride” tribute — joined the parade.
“It’s the least we can do when they put their lives on the line, their family. It’s the least we can do,” said Megan Sylvester of Suffolk County.
Younger veterans said the parade offers them a chance to reconnect and hopefully smooth the transition from military back to civilian life.
“It was getting used to going down a highway and not being freaked out by a bag of trash on the side of the road. Being in a crowd again. I remember my baseball game back, just realizing I was watching every single persons hands around me,” Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Tim Embree said.
The honor of watching the parade unites the generations–both older and younger–with a strong sense of camaraderie, CBS 2′s Jay Dow reports.
Eighty-five-year-old William Johnson said he still cherishes the friendships he made as a Tuskegee airman during World War II.
“I remember what we went through in Tuskegee, Ala. during that period of time,” Johnson said. “We trained in a segregated airfield and I think also how far we’ve gone since that particular time.”
Before the parade in Manhattan, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps kicked off Thursday’s ceremonies at the Eternal Light Monument at Madison Square Park.
Meanwhile, communities around New Jersey have done their duty, honoring veterans for their service and sacrifice.
Parades, speeches and wreath-laying ceremonies highlighted Thursday’s Veterans Day observance.
Col. Gina Grosso, commander of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, spoke at the state Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel. Three Vietnam veterans from the Garden State who died after returning to the U.S. were inducted into the “In Memory” program.
Veterans of several wars marched and rode in the annual Ocean County Veterans Day Parade in Toms River.
And Rutgers University student veterans attended a wreath-laying at the World War II and Vietnam memorial on the New Brunswick campus.The forecast calls for sunny skies and a high near 57.
The sense of pride and opportunities extends far beyond the parade route. Corporate giant Microsoft is donating $2 million in cash and $6 million in software to help vets find jobs.
Several restaurant chains, including Applebees, McCormick and Schmick’s, and Outback Steakhouse are offering discounts or even free meals, and the “Do It Yourself” brigade can catch 10-percent discounts at both Home Depot and Lowes.
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