The morning of the milestone 150th annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade, one of its organizers, Bay Ridge resident Ray Aalbue, sent a text to Matt Schoenherr, band leader for a military marching band from Sterling, Michigan, saying “Just to let you know, we march rain or shine.”
Schoenherr, head of the Henry Ford II Falcons Marching Band, replied, “So do we.”
And that they did as the parade, the third-largest Memorial Day march of its kind in the country, stepped off at 11 a.m. sharp at Third Avenue and 78th Street. From there, the neighborhood staple made its way to Marine Avenue, where it made a left onto Fourth Avenue and headed over to 101st Street at John Paul Jones Park for the grand finale – a touching memorial service at the ‘hood’s treasured “Cannonball Park.”
Schoenherr’s band was one of many to march the Ridge parade route. This year’s line of march also included a band from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Honor Guard from Washington, D.C. Among them were also eight floats as well as various vintage military vehicles and antique cars.
The boroughwide parade is sponsored each year by the United Military Veterans of Kings County (UMVKC), which Aalbue – also a U.S. Air Force veteran – currently chairs.
As far as turnout, he said, “It was just unbelievable. The crowds along the avenue were enthusiastic and there were a lot of people out to applaud all the veterans and to honor all those who died in service to our country.”
This year, the Disabled American Veterans were chosen as lead veterans’ group of the parade, with Colonel Peter Sicoli, U.S. Army garrison commander at Fort Hamilton serving as the march’s reviewing officer.
This year’s grand marshals were Lieutenant General John Toolan, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), a Brooklyn native, and Prisco DeAngelis, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran and longtime president of UMVKC.
“Grand Marshal Toolan gave a wonderful speech in the park,” noted Aalbue, adding also that “it was an honor” to see DeAngelis, who has been marching in the parade for over 60 years, named a grand marshal this year.
Deputy grand marshals included World War II veterans and brothers Roy and Jack Vanasco, as well as City Councilmember and 2010 Patriotism Award recipient Vincent Gentile.
Following the parade was a memorial service inside “Cannonball Park” featuring a performance of the national anthem, as well as “God Bless America,” by former 68th Precinct NYPD Officer Daniel Rodriguez. The program also included wreath layings and a 21-cannon salute by the Veteran Corps of Artillery.
“[UMVKC] appreciates the support from everybody in Bay Ridge and Brooklyn to make Brooklyn’s 150th Memorial Day Parade memorable for everybody,” added Aalbue.