NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On Sunday, thousands lined the streets of Manhattan to honor the men and women who have fought for our country.
Veterans had been participating in events all week to acknowledge the sacrifice of so many of their fellow soldiers.
Everything led up to the annual Veterans Day Parade up Fifth Avenue, where the crowds and military personnel waved flags to honor all those who have served.
This year, veterans celebrated the 100-year anniversary since the end of World War I.
More than 300 floats and military vehicles took part in the parade, with an estimated 30,000 spectators lining the route.
“We just want to be around each other and highlight the fact that we have our nation’s finest putting their lives on the line over and over again for all of us to be free,” Florent Groberg, a veteran and Medal of Honor, recipient told CBS2’s Clark Fouraker.
Groberg served as the parade’s grand marshal this year. He received the Medal of Honor after being injured by a suicide bomber during his second tour in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, Groberg took part in a Ruck Walk. Participants walked between eight and 50 miles with a heavy rucksack — like the ones used in the military — on their backs in honor of service men and women.
He shared with CBS2’s Dave Carlin a message for all Americans.
“Appreciate the country that we live in and appreciate our Veterans, everything they put on the line to serve our nation,” Groberg said. “The brotherhood and sisterhood that they form and the love that we have for our country and our flag and for each other, so God bless America.”
The walkers visited war memorials throughout the city and ended at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan.
“We started at the parade starting point at Madison Square Park, made our way down and visited all the war memorials in Lower Manhattan. So, we paid tribute to those who came before us,” veteran Mark Otto said.
The parade started at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue and traveled more than a mile up to 46th Street.
The event never fails to be rousing and magnify the patriotism of everyone involved, Carlin reported.
“It’s so important that they remember veterans and the allegiance to the flag,” said Margaret Van Allen of Derby, Connecticut.
The thank yous — the quiet ones and the ones loudly shouted from rooftops — were appreciated by veterans, including Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Joseph Austin, who served in the 1970s.
“Fort Knox, Kentucky; Indiana; Berlin, Germany,” Austin said of places he was stationed, later adding, “I do this every year and I love it.”
“This is like my birthday, my reunion, my anniversary, whatever you want to call this is my special day of the year,” added Rodney Garcia, an Air Force veteran from Shelton, Connecticut.
“We love our troops, we love our country and we understand that freedom is not free,” Groberg added.
Before the parade began, there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Eternal Light Monument at Madison Square Park. It was specifically timed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in remembrance of Armistice Day — the end of World War I.