Nation’s oldest Memorial Day Parade is bigger and better than ever

The longest-running American Memorial Day Parade took over Bay Ridge streets on Monday, featuring hundreds of marchers and floats and led by a joint color guard of the Fort Hamilton High School JROTC cadets. One hundred motorcyclists, many of whom were Vietnam vets, went out first in front of the joint color guard who led the parade.

The parade proceeded from Third Avenue and 78th Street up to Fourth Avenue and over to John Paul Jones Park where a ceremony took place to honor our nation’s fallen servicemen and women.

Elected officials and community leaders on hand included Congressmember Dan Donovan, State Senator Marty Golden, New York Conservative Party Chairperson Mike Long, Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairperson Jerry Kassar, City Councilmember Justin Brannan, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Fort Hamilton Army Base Commander Colonel Peter Sicoli, 68th Precinct Commanding Officer Robert Conwell, Brooklyn South Borough Commander Steven Powers, Gold Star mother Emily Toro and Memorial Day Parade Chairperson Ray Aalbue.

“Last year’s parade was a milestone because it was the 150th,” Aalbue told this paper. “I think it’s fair to say that our 151st parade yesterday was a milestone as well. We were committed to making this parade as good as the last one and we succeeded. Brooklyn’s 151st Memorial Day Parade committee knocked it out of the park.”

Golden was especially happy with the large turnout. “What a great day honoring our military men and women,” Golden said. “We live in the greatest nation in the world because of their selflessness and bravery. Our service members should be celebrated every day of the year.”

In fact, the Bay Ridge parade is the oldest continuously run Memorial Day Parade in the nation, and this year’s event was bigger and better than ever.

For many years, the parade took place on Eastern Parkway before it was moved to Bay Ridge 30 years ago.

Retiring Lieutenant General Robert Caslen served as the 151st grand marshal. Caslen is the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This year’s deputy grand marshals were three veterans who have championed Brooklyn veterans’ issues and have supported the parade for many years: two Korean War veterans — George Broadhead, USMC Ret. and Thomas Trombone — and Vietnam veteran Barry Berger. Broadhead was wounded in the final battle before the truce in Korea and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry and the Purple Heart for his actions.

The parade featured 18 bands and seven floats, including the Military Order of the Purple Heart, World War II Veterans, Korean War Veterans, Vietnam Veterans, Hope for Warriors and Catholic War Veterans.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I and some marchers were attired in period appropriate uniforms.

The Trailblazer Band from Gardner-Edgerton High School, Gardner, Kansas marched along with the U.S. Army Band from West Point.

Marines and sailors in New York City for Fleet Week and troops from the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, members of the Recruiting Battalion, and National Guard marched alongside civic organizations, iron workers, cops, firefighters, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, high school marching bands and Junior ROTC units.

Parade sponsors included Adams, Golden, Margo and John Catsimatidis, USAA, Con Edison, Northfield Bank and the American Legion.

The Veteran Corps of Artillery fired the cannon during the memorial service that immediately followed the parade in John Paul Jones Park at 101st Street. and Fourth Avenue.

The ceremony featured a flag raising, a wreath-laying by veterans’ organizations, a 21-gun salute by the Veteran Corps of Artillery, the oldest military unit in New York State dating back to the Revolutionary War, and two members of the Fort Hamilton High School Marching Regiment playing “Taps.”

“Thanks to the Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, our Grand Marshal, Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr. for his moving remarks at the memorial service in Cannonball Park, and Ruben Pratts, the New York State vice commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, our lead veteran service organization,” Aalbue said.

Pratts remembered his buddy, who died right next to him 50 years ago while serving in Vietnam.

“We thank all the folks along the route on Third and Fourth Avenues and the crowd that gathered in the park for the largest ever memorial service,” Aalbue added. “We appreciate everyone taking the time to come out to remember all those who paid such a terrible price in service to our nation.”


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