The Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade — a 145-year-old cavalcade honoring fallen American soldiers — is running thin on veterans, according to worried organizers who fear the nation’s oldest, continuously run Memorial Day procession will come to a halt if new veterans don’t join the march.
“The World War II veterans are virtually gone,” said parade committee spokesman Anthony Giovinco, adding that the Greatest Generation’s threadbare legions have traveled mostly in motorcades in recent processions.
Giovinco, 65, a Vietnam vet, said he issued a bugle call to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, but he’s only recruited a handful of soldiers from those conflicts for the May 28 jaunt.
“We don’t understand why,” Giovinco said.
Parade vice chairman Ray Aalbue, another Nam-era soldier, said he wants younger veterans to attend because he wants to recognize their volunteerism and heroism.
“We want to have a special announcement for them when they come up because they chose to go overseas,” he said.
But different wars create different warriors, explained Jason Hansman, who served as a Civil Affairs Specialist in Iraq, and is now a spokesman for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The Brooklyn Memorial Day committee asked the Manhattan-based group to pad its roster of uniformed marchers for the parade.
“Because there was no draft, the population of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is less than one percent of the population,” said Hansman, claiming that contemporary soldiers are less likely to get involved with local veterans groups because they don’t have neighbors who served with them. “They’re mostly from rural areas and towns with military bases in the south and Midwest. Today’s veterans tend to meet up online.”
Hansman said his group connected with veterans in cyberspace to get more of them to participate in Memorial Day marches, primarily the one held in Arlington, Virginia — which Hansman himself plans to attend over the Brooklyn one.
Fort Hamilton Staff Sgt. Jose Minaya, who served in Afghanistan and said he would be happy to attend the Brooklyn parade if approached by the committee, blamed changing values for the disinterest among younger soldiers.
“The military used to be like a church, a subculture, now it’s part of the larger culture,” said the soldier, who served in the Air Force in the early 1980s, and signed up for the Army after 9-11. “This is a generation of me, myself, and I — honor, loyalty, love of country, these things don’t mean anything any more.”
The 145th Annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade, May 28 at 11 am [Councilman Vincent Gentile’s district office, 8703 Third Ave. between 87th and 88th streets in Bay Ridge, (917) 873-1508]; www.brooklynmemorialdayparade.com.
Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.