Nation’s oldest Memorial Day Parade marches again in Bay Ridge

Nation’s oldest Memorial Day Parade marches again in Bay Ridge
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

Thousands of Brooklynites lined Third Avenue on May 26 to observe America’s oldest parade saluting those who died in the line of duty.

Some 2,300 people in cars and on foot stepped off at the corner of 87th Street and proceeded to Cannonball Park as part of the 147th Annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade.

“It was great. Third Avenue was lined with people on both sides, coming out to remember those who gave their lives for their country,” said parade chairman and Air Force veteran Ray Aalbue, noting that attendance has been on the uptick. “It’s been growing for the past few years, and this was the largest turnout.”

Heading up the cavalcade of commemoration were four Gold Star Mothers — who each lost a son in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then came representatives from the Fort Hamilton Army Base. Also participating were new Fire Department officers who served in the recent Middle Eastern conflicts, along with ex-military police officers from Southern Brooklyn precincts and active-duty soldiers from the New York City Recruiting Battalion. The renewed youth participation was a breakthrough for the parade, which has long consisted mostly of veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

“It was a move in the right direction. We got a lot of help from the NYPD and the FDNY in getting in touch with those people,” said Aalbue. “It closes the loop to have active duty soldiers, because they’re the ones who are out there on the battlefield. They’re the ones who might have lost some of their comrades. And it gives them the opportunity to remember them and to get the respect that they deserve.”

The procession also included Marines and sailors in town for Fleet Week — who were absent last year due to the government shutdown that prevented the fleet from entering the harbor.

“It’s important to have all our servicemembers represented, the Marines, the Navy and the Amy,” said Aalbue, adding that next year he hopes to also have members of the Air Force and Coast Guard in the parade.

The event wrapped up with a memorial service in Cannonball Park, with a 21-gun salute from Fort Hamilton and a special tribute to the Gold Star Mothers and their sons.

“It was a very solemn and somber moment,” Aalbue said. “It was a very impressive display to remember those who died.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.