Hundreds of American Legion Family members are expected to participate in America’s Parade - the Veterans Day Parade in New York City this year.
And it’s not too late for members of the Legion, Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion to sign up for the largest Veterans Day event in the United States. Right now, there are participants expected from all over New York state, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
The Legion contingent includes veterans from every war era since World War II, according to Sean Powers, who is coordinating the Legion representation for the Nov. 11 parade.
"This is a day to show the country who we are as The American Legion and to support our military as veterans," Powers said. "Several of our members who were not originally inclined to march have said after the parade that it was a great validation of their military service."
There will be between 600,000 and 750,000 spectators lining the 1.4-mile long parade route and showing their appreciation to veterans with applause, cheers and shouts of "thank you."
Powers said that the support touches all parade participants. "One of our Vietnam vets said it was the first time he ever felt proud to be a veteran."
Those interested in marching with the Legion family delegation should send an email stating their intent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Powers will post details about the Legion contingency as they become available.
He encourages anyone with a convertible or military vehicle who is willing to drive the parade route to contact him. "We need to get as many vehicles as possible to help out the veterans who are not able to walk," said Powers, who added that anyone wishing to drive their vehicle or Legion Riders wanting to participate must contact him.
In addition to the marchers, the Legion contingent will include the vehicles, a Color Guard and representatives of Soldier’s Wish.
Powers recommends that people wanting to participate should dress their best. "Our number one thing is that everyone participate," he said. "Our preferred dress standard is a suit and tie, or what is appropriate for women, along with a Legion cap. Of course, we understand that some people may dress more for comort due to the weather and their health issues. Active-duty or Reserve members should wear their military uniform. We are representing the Legion on a national stage and we need to put out best foot forward."
The parade will not only be seen by hundreds of thousands of spectators in New York City, but it will also be broadcast from noon until 3 p.m. in 10 of the largest U.S. television markets, said Ryan Hegg, deputy director of the United War Veterans Council, which puts on the event.
"There is a buzz and a sense of urgency," Hegg said, explaining why the parade is growing rapidly this year. "Everyone in the veterans community is aware that as the wars recede from the headlines, it’s going to be harder work to get veterans issues in front of the public. There is this idea that we need to create these large events for the entire community. So that when these headlines fade from the public’s attention, we do have something in place to shine on the entire veterans community. Obviously, Veterans Day is one of those times of the year when that is vital and critical."
This year, the parade’s theme is Women in Service and retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody is the grand marshal.
"The theme was not so much picked but sort of arrived," Hegg said. "With the decisions made by the government to allow women in combat roles, and the selection of the first female four-star general last year, I think it was naturally the right moment in time to honor women veterans. When Gen. Dunwoody agreed to be our grand marshal, everything really came together and people started getting really excited about it."
The Legion will also pay tribute to women veterans. "As the parade is honoring women in service, we are going to do the same in our contingent," Powers said. "It’s important to salute our women who have served and continue to serve honorably."
After the parade, Legion Family members and their guests are invited to the U.S.S. Intrepid for a special event, Powers said. Contact him or visit the website for additional information about post-parade activities.
Looking to the future, Hegg sees the parade continuing to grow in popularity.
"People have Veterans Day parades in communities across America," he said. "Our goal is for people to include our parade among their Veterans Day commemorations. Just as the ball-dropping in Times Square is part of New Year’s celebrations, or the Macy’s Day Parade is part of Thanksgiving. That’s the model we are looking at. We want to be the spotlight that shines on all Veterans Day activities around the country, helping to draw attention to those who served."