Brooklynites from all corners of the borough jammed Third Avenue in Bay Ridge during a driving rainstorm on May 29 for the 150th anniversary of the nation’s oldest Memorial Day parade.
Thousands marched up the avenue from 77th Street in the Kings County Memorial Day Parade — a prolific procession that included seven floats, 18 bands, and more than 100 different groups — to salute those who died serving their country, and honor those who returned.
The longest continuous Memorial Day parade in the U.S. dates back to when Brooklyn was the nation’s third-largest city, and no expense was spared to celebrate this year’s milestone, said the parade committee chairman.
“We pulled out all the stops,” said Ridgite Raymond Aalbue. “It was the biggest parade ever. A lot of people came out. Can you imagine if it wasn’t raining?”
The parade convened at John Paul Jones Park on 101st Street and Fourth Avenue, where veterans, active service members, and those who gave their lives were honored with an elaborate ceremony. Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as flag bearers and members of the military marched into the park. Representatives of the Veterans Service Organization laid a wreath at the base of a stage set up near the center of the green space. The observance culminated with a 21-gun salute fired by the Veterans Corps of Artillery, and a plaintive playing of “Taps” by pair of students from Fort Hamilton High School.
“It really strikes home, the effect of losing so many men and women due to war,” said Aalbue, an Air Force veteran who served in Korea from 1967 to ’71. “Every aspect of the ceremony is important — it’s all about respect.”
One of the parade’s grand marshals agreed.
“Somebody has to remember those veterans who gave their lives, and if we don’t remember them they’ll just be forgotten souls,” said Carroll Gardener Prisco DeAngelis, who served in the Army in Korea from 1952 to ’54. “People should remember what they did, and to have the parade and everyone who remembers give tribute is a great thing. It’s important work.”