Brooklyn honors veterans on Memorial Day

Veterans salute for Memorial Day at Brooklyn Veterans Affairs hospital on Poly Place on May 31.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Hundreds of Brooklynites paid their respects to veterans and those who died fighting for the United States on Memorial Day.

At least two separate events honored the fallen heroes in the borough Monday, including the 154th Memorial Day Parade and Motorcade in Bay Ridge which drew dozens of spectators from Kings County and beyond along its route, according to one of the organizers.

“The best thing was riding along seeing all the people from Bay Ridge and Brooklyn along the parade route,” said Raymond Aalbue, the chairman of the parade and executive director of United Military Veterans of Kings County.

The Memorial Day Parade and Motorcade drew young and old on May 31.Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

After a paired-down version of the event in 2020 due to the pandemic, the parade was back in full force this year, with a motorcade down Third Avenue. The drive was followed by a wreath laying at the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs hospital at Poly Place, and a memorial service at nearby John Paul Jones Park, where veterans raised the American flag.

“This year we had a crowd, this year we were back to normal,” said Aalbue, who served in the Air Force in Okinawa, Japan, and Korea in the late 1960s.

A special float was dedicated to Brooklyn’s veterans services organization, to raise awareness for the groups, he said.

The parade, run completely by veterans, was founded just after the end of the Civil War with its first iteration in 1867 on Eastern Parkway, and it is considered the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in a large city in the nation.

It was held at Eastern Parkway until 1985, followed by a brief tenure on Prospect Park West, and moved to Bay Ridge more than 30 years ago due to the neighborhood’s proximity to US Army Garrison Fort Hamilton.

On the other side of the borough, veterans and their families held a tribute at the Brooklyn War Memorial at Cadman Park, with several speakers, including one Seymour Kaplan, who helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in Germany during World War II, according to the event’s organizer.

World War II veteran Seymour Kaplan speaks at the Brooklyn War Memorial at Cadman Park in Downtown Brooklyn.Cadman Park Conservancy

“It puts a lot of things in perspective,” said Cadman Park Conservancy President Doreen Gallo. 

Kaplan showed off memorabilia from his tour in the European theatre, including a German soldier’s dagger, and the elder veteran related a story of when he snuck out a bowl from Adolf Hitler’s home.

“His manner, he’s just this delightful person, despite speaking about these horrible things,” said Gallo of Kaplan. “I feel very privileged to be with these people and share their stories.”

Veterans pose at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Downtown Brooklyn on May 31.Cadman Park Conservancy