Memorial Day parade remembers heroes, prefaces 9/11 anniversary

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Thousands of spectators braved the heat Monday in Washington, D.C., to honor members of the U.S. military at the annual National Memorial Day Parade.

“I’m very excited about the parade,” said Amanda Gabriel, who traveled from New Jersey. “It’s such a beautiful day. What better way to celebrate Memorial Day?”

The parade, presented by the American Veterans Center, celebrated all those who have served in the military, from the American Revolution to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

High school bands played such patriotic songs as “God Bless America” and “Proud to be an American” while spectators sat on curbs or waved from the steps of the National Archives building, sipping lemonade and waving U.S. flags.

However, with the soaring temperatures, dozens of people reportedly had to be treated for heat-related illnesses.

Rachel Johnson of Dallas sat with a picture of her grandfather, who was killed in the Korean War.

“It’s important to remember that [Memorial Day] is not just about the start of swimming season or barbecues or whatever,” she said. “It’s about people who were willing to sacrifice everything for this country and Americans.”

This year’s parade included a tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11, anticipating the 10-year anniversary of the attacks.

Families who lost loved ones that day waved from a float and held pictures of the fallen. The parade also featured sailors from the USS Arlington, a new Navy ship named to honor the 184 killed in the attack on the Pentagon.

The parade’s grand marshal this year was Pat Sajak, host of the “Wheel of Fortune” TV game show, who served in the Army from 1968 to 1979.

Special guests included Apollo astronaut and Korean War veteran Buzz Aldrin, Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan and Gary Sinise, a veterans advocate and actor best known for his role as Lt. Dan in the film “Forrest Gump” and as detective Mac Taylor in the “CSI: New York” TV series.

“We’re spread pretty thin in combat in several countries; we need to settle in on the health care issue; and we weren’t prepared for the end of the space shuttle program,” said Mr. Aldrin as temperatures soared into the 90s. “But today, I’ve also found a nice shade tree … and I’m proud to be here as part of the American experience.”

 

 

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