NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — From the American Revolution to the War on Terror, the Tri-State Area and the country on Monday remembered the more than 1 million men and women who died serving our country.
As CBS2’s Emily Smith reported, many war veterans paid respect to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice with a special ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Mayor Bill de Blasio joined them, somberly tossing a wreath into the Hudson River.
“Never take it for granted. It’s a challenge to all of us. Never take for granted the people who have chosen to put on a uniform and risked their lives. Never take it for granted,” de Blasio said. “Stop to think about it, and then ask yourself the question: ‘What am I doing? What can I do for those who have served? What can I do for the families who lost a loved one in service? What can I do to remember them?”
For many, every day is Memorial Day if you’ve lost a loved one to war. That’s a sentiment from de Blasio whose father nearly died in Okinawa.
“Intrepid only begins to describe the perseverance and the strength associated with this ship and the good men who served on it,” de Blasio said.
A 100-foot American flag was unfurled on the deck of the Intrepid and four wreaths were tossed into the chilly waters as Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Command, reminded us of the meaning of Memorial Day.
The USS Intrepid launched in 1943. The aircraft carrier hosting the event saw service in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike. It later served in the Cold War, the Vietnam War, And as a NASA recovery vessel in 1960s.
Of the 50,000 who once served on the Intrepid, 270 never made it home.
U.S. Navy Radioman First Class Bob Cassara is one of 50,000 men who served onboard the Intrepid during the Cold War.
“It took me a while, you know, to be able to come back here,” Cassara said. “You know, the ship became a museum, and it took me five years before I started really becoming active and volunteering.”
Stanley Wright, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, said it was an emotional day.
“You see these tears coming down every day. It’s gut-wrenching to know that the person who’s standing next to you interviewing you all of a sudden doesn’t have a head, and you’re covered with that stuff, and you’ve got to come back home and deal with it,” Wright said.
Wright fought in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1971. He said there is nowhere he would rather spend Memorial Day than at the Intrepid.
Meanwhile, Rita Abbey of the Bronx brought her kids so they could think about the courage about those who fought, but could not get back to their families.
“I want them to know people died for this country,” Abbey told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “People have suffered to be here.”
Abbey is on a mission to make sure her girls understand that when they have the day off from school, it may be one of the most important lessons they ever learn.
“They should not take anything for granted, for people have lost their lives for this,” Abbey said.
The mayor also marched in the annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade. It stepped off at Jayson Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Queens.
The Douglaston parade was a bittersweet occasion for Air Force veteran Frank Zapata.
“It’s very sad,” Zapata said. “I feel sorry for all those people that we lost and all the families.
The Port Authority also deployed the world’s largest free-flying flag at the George Washington Bridge for Memorial Day.
Meanwhile on Monday morning, the Wounded Warriors Project offered a tour of seven monuments that honor fallen heroes.
Many parades were also held, including in Chappaqua, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo marched in New Castle’s Memorial Day parade along with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Cuomo also marched in a parade in Valley Stream on Monday morning.
The Memorial Day Parade in Chappaqua is a strong, longstanding tradition that cloudy gray skies and sporadic showers could not defeat.
“Chappaqua always supports the veterans and the Memorial Day Parade — rain or shine,” said Adam Glick of Chappaqua.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they would be such a turn on a rainy day,” said Ron Freeman, a World War II veteran.
Cuomo said the holiday now means even more than honoring those who fought for us.
”I think we’re also talking about today and the state of the world today, and the fear that we all have about terrorism,” Cuomo said, “and I think we have a new appreciation for the freedom this nation gives us and how we have to keep it safe.”
In Ridgewood, New Jersey, dozens came to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. An indoor memorial replaced the outdoor event that was washed out by the rain.
World War II veteran Joe Vrana said he will never forget his fallen comrades.
“Lots of memories of all my friends that are still over there,” Vrana said.
Other events were held over the weekend ahead of Memorial Day.
The Town of Huntington spent Sunday remembering and honoring our fallen services. Dozens of veterans turned out to lay wreaths at the World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam and Women’s Veteran monuments on Main Street. The Memorial Day ceremonies continue Monday with several parades across town.