New York Veterans Day Parade gives late tribute to Vietnam War Vets
New York City Mayor Bloomberg and other dignitaries were on hand to celebrate Veterans Day with a wreath laying ceremony in Madison Square Park. New Yorkers lined 5th Avenue to thank their veterans from World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The 93rd New York City Veterans Day Parade started with an opening ceremony in Madison Square Park, honoring living veterans from all wars since World War II. The United States has a separate holiday, Memorial Day – on the last Monday in May – to honor the war dead. Originally called Armistice Day, to honor the end of World War I, it was renamed Veterans Day after World War II to give special tribute to those who served and came back.
This year’s theme was “United we stand”, in an effort to remin the public to stand behind America’s veterans. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Vietnam War Veterans received special commemoration during the opening ceremony, as the parade was intended to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Those returning from the Vietnam War were often considered the step-children of war veterans. Contrary to their brethren from earlier wars, they returned from Vietnam to little fanfare and attention, since theirs was the first time, the U.S. army had lost a war. Their reintegration into civilian life proved very difficult, as many returned with emotional or addiction problems, making veteran homelessness a new phenomenon. In light of the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of hostilities in Vietnam, the veteran community gave special tribute to these soldiers, as one speaker said “to finally give them their rightful respect for their service.”
The Vietnam War veterans had their own float in the parade, reflecting the non-conformist nature of their generation. While veterans from World War II and Korea had marching bands as their musical accompaniment, the Vietnam War veterans had a rock band keeping them steady. However, in a conciliatory gesture to previous generations of veterans, their second float featured an elderly man singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.
All along the way, Veterans and onlookers could be seen thanking each other, exchanging salutes and hand-shakes.