2019 is a big year for major commemorations. This year marks 100 years since women gained the right to vote. It’s also been 100 years since Congress established the Grand Canyon National Park. 100 years have passed since Prohibition. It’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Stonewall, the moon landing, and Sesame Street. And another major commemoration: 2019 is the centennial of the first Armistice Day, which we now know officially as Veterans Day.
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, the fighting of World War I ceased as the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany took hold. A year later, November 11, 1919, reflective and commemorative events took place all over the world to mark the first anniversary of the armistice. There was a banquet at Buckingham Palace, including a two-minute silence at 11 am for those who died in the war. New York City’s events included a parade on Fifth Avenue. Then-President Woodrow Wilson declared the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” Today, Veterans Day honors those who serve the United States in all wars, especially living veterans.
If you’d like to join in the observances to honor veterans, you’re in luck. The parade along Fifth Avenue continues to this day and remains the largest Veteran’s Day parade in the United States.
On Monday, November 11, Opening Ceremonies to the parade start at 11 am inside Madison Square Park (Fifth Avenue and 24th Street). Beginning with a moment of silence, the ceremony continues just before noon, ending with the laying of wreaths at the Eternal Light monument. The parade then commences down a mile and a quarter of Fifth Avenue from 26th to 46th Street. Over 25,000 people participate in the parade, making it the largest in the nation. There are marching bands from top high schools all over the country, floats, vintage vehicles, and marchers, including veterans, military units, civic and youth groups, Junior ROTC, and businesses. Thousands of spectators show their support along the parade route. And for those unable to attend, the event can be viewed on WABC in the NYC area, or online at uwvc.org/vetsday. The featured military branch this year is the United States Marine Corps, and of course, the theme of this year’s parade is the centennial of the first Armistice Day.
Veterans Day is a federal holiday; thus, all government offices, banks, and schools are closed in observance. So, this November 11, let go of errands and business, relax, and take some time to honor those who so bravely serve or have served our country. And, while you’re at it, enjoy a grand parade.
If you find yourself enjoying the quiet reflection that Veterans Day inspires, take the opportunity for more of it. Visit some of the best places in NYC to see the fall leaves and ponder at the wonders of nature in the city.