NEW YORK — Monday was Veterans Day in the United States. It’s a time to honor and celebrate all those in the military who have fought in America’s wars. An estimated 25,000 people marched in the annual Veterans Day Parade in New York City.
The parade got off to a solemn start at a ceremony to honor fallen veterans. Afterward, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Webster, a 31-year veteran who last saw active duty in Iraq, said this national holiday is not only about the past.
"For me Veterans Day is extremely important," he said. "But veterans not only those who have come and gone .. but also celebrates veterans who are alive today.”
Another vet was a machine gunner in the Korean conflict during the early 1950s, when he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star medal. He feels lucky to have survived the horrors he saw.
“… and I am here today joining the parade. It’s a blessing," he said.
Arnold Strauch, who fought during World War II, says that to be brave during war is also to know fear.
"All of us were at one time or another were pretty frightened of what we were doing," he said. "But fortunately, the people I was closest to made it through the war."
The parade was full of music and thunder, as bagpipers joined motorcycle clubs for vets along the route.
Vietnam War veteran Frank Mulholland, a biker with the ‘Nam Knights, says he respects veterans of every era.
“It’s a bond. And my thing is, when I see another veteran I shake his hand and I pat him on the back and I welcome him home," he said. "He served his country. And basically that’s what this is all about.”
Mort Gerard, who fought in Korea, feels an especially powerful bond with other Marines.
“We’re strangers yet we’re all brothers," he said. "Respect, honor and pride. Until the day we die.”
This year’s parade focused especially on returning female veterans, 35,000 of whom are homeless at any one time, according to active duty Army Sergeant Allaina Guitron, who was crowned Ms. Veteran America to raise awareness about their suffering.
“You have women coming back who are single mothers They either have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], suffer from sexual trauma, or have disabilities or their military job doesn’t equate to civilian jobs," she said. "They have tough times getting back on their own. It’s kind of disheartening to know that they have served their country and they come back and there aren’t enough programs that benefit them and their children.”
Onlooker Roberta William helps run a university program for returning veterans. She says giving back to those who have given America so much is deeply meaningful.
“We love working for them. We teach them, we advise them, she said. "We support them in every way, and we honor them and we thank them every day for their service.”
Thoughts for every American on this Veterans Day 2013.