Bay Ridge’s annual Memorial Day celebration continues, second year as motorcade

Veterans wave from the motorcade for 2020’s scaled-back Memorial Day Parade in Bay Ridge.
File photo

The 154th iteration of Brooklyn’ Memorial Day Parade will go on as a motorcade for the second year in a row — though it will be slightly larger than last year’s event. 

“Now that we have all this under our belts, we’re expanding it a little,” said Raymond Aalbue, organizer of the Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade and executive director of United Military Veterans of Kings County.

All are welcome to join the procession through Bay Ridge— the parade’s venue for the last 30 years— though veterans will be given first priority at the front of the motorcade. Participants are encouraged to decorate their cars with American flags and patriotic banners, Aalbue said. 

A Memorial Day float will be reintroduced this year and will will be decked out with banners for all the different veteran service organizations, which will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal, as well as World War 2 veteran David Vogel, who fought in the Mariana Islands, from Connecticut. 

The motorcade will begin at 75th Street and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge at 11 am and will then make its way to the Brooklyn Veterans Hospital on Poly Place in neighboring Dyker Heights via Marine Avenue, Fort Hamilton Parkway, 92nd Street and Seventh Avenue respectively.  

Everyone is then invited to head over to John Paul Jones Park, where the organizers are hosting a ceremony, starting around 1pm,  that will include a playing of taps, a laying of wreaths and flag raising.  

While current restrictions would probably allow for a parade, the organizing group did not have the time to prepare an event so large-scale,  Aalbue told Brooklyn Paper, as there was no way to foresee the sudden reversal of most coronavirus restrictions when they began planning back in September.

“Now we would have like to have a parade, like we normally do,” Aaslbue said, “but it was just too late. We started planning our parade in September, October last year. We have floats and bands and stuff like that so it was difficult for us to put together a parade.” 

The Memorial Day Parade has had its home in Bay Ridge for over 30 years, with its first inception in 1867 on Eastern Parkway, where it was held for a number of years before a brief tenure in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace on Prospect Park West.

Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade was founded just after the end of the Civil War, when veterans from the battles between the Union and the Confederacy joined forces with alumni of previous wars to remember those who died. 

Aalbue has been organizing the parade for 28 years and said he feels it his responsibility to honor his brothers and sisters who were in combat—  as himself a veteran from the Vietnam War-era but wasn’t sent into combat, and was instead stationed in Okinawa, Japan and Korea. 

“I was in the military during the Vietnam War, and they didn’t send me to Vietnam,” Aalbue told Brooklyn Paper. “So one of the things I think I do this for is to remember all of those men and women who died, over 58,000 men and women who died in Vietnam, because I could have been in Vietnam, who knows.”

This Memorial Day will be particularly significant, Aalbue said, as this year marks the 30th anniversary since the Gulf War, and especially poignant to New Yorkers, coming up to the 20th anniversary of September 11.