NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Before American pride consumed the streets of Manhattan for the annual Veterans Day Parade, the opening ceremony inside Madison Square Park was a bit more solemn.

Firm grips grasped more than just flowers at a wreath laying at the Eternal Light Monument, representing millions off American veterans who risked their lives to protect ours.

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“It highlights who we are. It highlights the day,” said Fritz Fils-Aime, president of the Haitian American Veterans who risked their lives to protect ours.

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Most of the crowd were veterans. Their honor and service kept us alive.

“They say freedom is not free. Well, it’s not. It’s hard to achieve, and it’s even harder to maintain. You in the audience, you know this as you have lived it,” said Doug McGowan of the United War Veterans Council.

Monday was the centennial edition of the New York City Veterans Day Parade.

“It’s fantastic. One hundred years to honor everyone that served. It’s a great day in New York,” said Larry Bishop of the New Jersey American Legion.

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For the first time ever, a sitting president attended.

“United War Veterans Council, every year, invited the commander in chief to the Veterans Day Parade. We are honored and excited that this year, the president said yes,” said Nick Angione, a Marine Corps veteran who’s on the UWVC board of directors.

While it’s more common for presidents to honor veterans on Veterans Day by visiting Arlington National Cemetery, President Donald Trump made history Monday, joined by the first lady.

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“To each veteran of the war, the glory of your deeds will only grow greater with time,” Trump said.

The president thanked every branch of the military for its service.

“You are America’s greatest living heroes, and we will cherish you now, always and forever. Thank you,” Trump said.

But veteran pride turned political.

Many enjoyed Trump’s presence.

“I think it makes it all the more exciting,” one parade-goer said.

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“I think the president adores the troops and cares about the veterans,” said Laurene Sandstrom.

Not everyone was pleased with the president’s appearance. Groups of protesters gathered to show their opposition to the president.

“Wecame out here about 9:30 in the morning, when the motorcade came, and protesteed while he spoke. And our signs were about Trump, and that we support the vets, and support troops,” said Jamie Bauer.

Most people CBS2 spoke to say Veterans Day should be a special time to put politics aside and focus on our country’s heroes.

“We should recognize our veterans for their service,” one parade-goer said.

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That’s the sentiment to remember.