A smoother ride for this year’s Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade

Last April, when state budget cuts threatened to sideline the nation’s longest continuously-run Memorial Day Parade – which begins at 91st Street and Third Avenue and ends at John Paul Jones Park – the locals wouldn’t let that happen. Public officials, stripped of their state-allocated dollars, chipped in with personal donations. Area residents held fundraisers and made countless contributions, great and small. The parade was saved.

“It was something how the community stuck together,” said Prisco “Pete” De Angelis, a Purple Heart recipient for his service in the Korean War and president of the United Military Veterans of Kings County, the event’s organizers. “They got right behind us. That was a big push. We needed that.”

This year, when the parade begins for the 145th time, at 11 a.m. on the last Monday in May, the organization can breathe easy. The procession is paid for.

“This community appreciates the sacrifice men and women make for their country,” said Ray Aalbue, a Vietnam veteran and the first vice president of the United Military Veterans, on the group’s recent fundraising success. “It’s always ready to stand up and applaud the men and women who served.”

One big reason raising the $20,000 needed to put on the parade was less painful this year, according to Aalbue, is the United Military Veterans recently acquired tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization.

“We’re now able to reach out to people and offer them a tax deduction for their generosity,” Aalbue said, adding, “Last year, we learned quite a bit about how to reach out through our local papers and veterans groups, to get the word out.”

Now that the organization has broadened its exposure, De Angelis hopes word of the event will reach more recently returning vets.

“We would like to see those younger veterans come down and join us,” De Angelis said. “I don’t care if it’s 10 veterans. I’d like to see them in the parade and I think we’re going to have quite a few.”

Aalbue points out that the day can serve a valuable purpose for younger generations who have served their country.

“This is an opportunity for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to come out and be recognized and pay homage to their brothers and sisters in arms who died in the war,” he said.

Last year’s parade drew an estimated 3,000 spectators and 1,200 marching participants. With parade funds secured for this year, the United Military Veterans have started collecting for 2013. But according to Aalbue, whatever happens with fundraising, the procession will go on.

“Last year, even if we didn’t have any money, if we didn’t have any bands, there would be a group of veterans – maybe only four of us – marching down Third Avenue to John Paul Jones Park, just to keep it going,” he said.

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