Annual Veterans Day Parade marches up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan

Midtown, Manhattan (WABC) -- The 99th annual New York City Veterans Day Parade marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan Saturday.

The event got underway with a memorial service at Madison Square Park.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other dignitaries attended the ceremony before the parade kicked off.

Legendary astronaut, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was this year's grand marshal.

De Blasio said he was "totally star struck" when he met the 87-year-old Aldrin Saturday.

Aldrin was the second man on the moon, piloting the Apollo 11 and following Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface in 1969. Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the U.A. Air Force's highest-ranking woman, also attended the ceremony.

De Blasio says the U.S. must do more than just pay tribute to veterans, there should be better access to mental health and medical care, and more job opportunities for those who served.

The parade began at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue and proceeded up Fifth Avenue to 53rd Street.

The parade stepped off to cheers with a large flag and Aldrin riding in a convertible.

World War II veterans rode in a float with one former soldier holding a sign that read "Thank you for remembering." Others held U.S. flags or black-and-white photos of their loved ones, and dressed in historic uniforms.

A man dressed as a sailor and a woman in a nurse's uniform re-enacted the famous World War II V-J Day kiss photo.

"We are so proud to be a city where over 200,000 veterans live, veterans who have answered the call of duty and have traveled to the ends of the globe to protect liberty at home and abroad," de Blasio said. "For the sacred sacrifice of all veterans across this country, the 8.5 million Americans who call New York home will forever remain in the debt of their service."

The New York parade is the largest Veterans Day parade in the country.

Some 40,000 people were expected to march this year.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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