NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The nation's largest celebration of veterans in the largest city in America once again marched up Fifth Avenue Thursday to mark Veterans Day.
The 102nd annual parade, produced by the United War Veterans Council and streamed live on Channel 7, marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the Global War on Terror, as well as the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.
"These milestones represent critical moments in our nation's history when brave men and women made great sacrifices to defend our country," UWVC President and Executive Director Mark Otto said. "We know that New Yorkers are eager to show their support for all of our veterans, and to welcome the Parade back to Fifth Avenue."
Every year, Manhattan's iconic Fifth Avenue becomes a focal point of the city's efforts to salute the men and women who have defended our nation and its principles. The sole mission of the parade and its related activities is to honor America's veterans and to spotlight those who serve them.
"We stand on the shoulders of the men and women who fought before us," United War Veterans Council Chairman Nick Angione said.
The parade saluted heroes like Marine Corps Sergeant Mike Sulsona, who was wounded in Vietnam.
"You can tell the war stories, but I stepped on a land mine and lost both of my legs," he said. "I came home."
This year's Grand Marshal was U.S. Air Force veteran and local hero Kevin Carrick, a retired Senior Master Sergeant who served over two decades as an elite Pararescueman ("PJ") with the 106th Rescue Wing based in nearby Westhampton on Long Island.
These elite but little-known specialists are the only Special Forces members dedicated to saving lives.
With countless deployments to combat zones overseas, and to disaster areas at home and abroad, ranging from the first search and rescue military response at Ground Zero on 9/11 to providing support during the COVID pandemic, Carrick represents the very best of the spirit of service that drives men and women in every branch of the military.
The parade featured nearly 200 marching units, including veteran groups, service providers, military units, student veterans, and veteran employee groups, JROTC and more.
Marching bands, floats and vintage vehicles added to the celebratory atmosphere.
Army Col. Bill Taylor has served all over the world, including Iraq.
"It's important the nation and the city takes time to remember the sacrifice of all of our veterans," he said. "I think it brings country together, and we realize (it's) bigger than yourself."
He was recent transferred to New York from Tampa, which meant moving his son Noah.
"It's pretty hard moving every couple years, but it's nice people take time to recognize hardship of that," Noah Taylor said.
It also serves as a reminder that families serve too.
"We just couldn't be prouder of Bill, who represents our family and our nation," Taylor's wife said. "It's a delight to serve, truly, as an active duty Army officer."
Thousands of spectators once again lined Fifth Avenue in a display of unity, in such divided times
"I always say, when I got hit and the choppers came and got me, they didn't say, 'Are you a Republican, are you a Democrat?'" Sulsona said. "We must work together for the betterment of the nation. We must."
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