Nation's oldest Memorial Day Parade returns to Bay Ridge

The oldest continuously run Memorial Day Parade in the nation takes place right here in Brooklyn each year.

The tradition will continue this year.

Gold Star mothers who lost their children in war will serve as the grand marshals for 147th Annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade to take place in Bay Ridge on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26.

The parade, which is hosted by the United Military Veterans of Kings County, will begin at 11 a.m. on Third Avenue and 87th Street. The route runs along Third Avenue to 89th Street and then up 89th Street to Fourth Avenue and along Fourth Avenue to John Paul Jones Park on 101st Street, where a post-parade ceremony will take place. The park is located next door to the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton.

Parade organizers said that all military veterans are welcome to march. A common misperception about the parade is that a veteran has to belong to a veteran’s organization such as the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars to take part in the march. This is untrue, according to the organizers. A veteran does not have to belong to a veteran service organization to march.

Vehicles will be provided for those veterans who would like to take part in the parade but who are not able to march. They will be able to ride the parade route in a car.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen of hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the U.S. armed forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star.

Membership in the American Gold Star Mothers Inc. is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the U.S.

“We are honored to have Gold Star Mothers serving as our grand marshals,” said Prisco DeAngelis, president of United Military Veterans of Kings County. “It is a terrible thing to lose a child, especially in battle. Our hearts go out to these wonderful women and their families.”

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) is bringing in two Gold Star Mothers for the parade: Julie Schrock, from Lone Tree, Colorado; and Miriam Montes De Oca, from North Arlington, New Jersey. Emily Toro, a native of the Bronx, will represent the Gold Star Mothers of New York.

Schrock’s son, Marine Cpl. Max Donahue, died in Afghanistan in 2010. Montes de Oca lost her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, in 2012 in Afghanistan. Toro lost her son, Army Pvt. Isaac T. Cortes, in 2007 in Iraq. The FDNY has also coordinated for service dogs and their handlers to participate in the parade.

Parade Chairman Raymond Aalbue said the deputy grand marshals for the parade will be the Fort Hamilton military community. “The families are very much a part of the life of a service member. They stay home while their loved ones are deployed. It’s a tough life and we want to applaud them for keeping the home fires burning while their spouse is in harm’s way serving our nation overseas,” he said.

DeAngelis is a Korean War veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. He has been associated with running the parade for over 40 years. He said he remembers when the parade ran along Eastern Parkway because he marched in it when he was a kid.

For many years, the parade took place on Eastern Parkway. It was moved to Bay Ridge 22 years ago.

Brooklyn has been hosting a Memorial Day Parade since the days when it was a city unto itself, before it became a part of New York City in 1898.

The lead veteran service organization for the 2014 version of the parade is the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The organizations marching in the parade include: the United War Veterans of Kings County; the American Legion; Korean War Veterans; Vietnam Veterans of America; Catholic War Veterans; Jewish War Veterans; Disabled American Veterans; Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans; 715 Veterans Association; the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Brooklyn “Key Chapter” American Ex-Prisoners of War; and the United War Veterans, Inc.

Marines and sailors in New York City for Fleet Week and troops from the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, members of the Recruiting Battalion, and National Guard will march alongside civic organizations, iron workers, cops, firefighters, boy scouts, girl scouts, high school marching bands and Jr. ROTC units.

The ceremony in John Paul Jones Park will include a flag raising, a wreath laying by veterans, a 21-gun salute by the Veteran Corps of Artillery, and the playing of “Taps” by members of the Fort Hamilton High School Band. Bob O’Hare from Clan Eirean Pipe Band will play the bagpipes during the ceremony. The USO Liberty Belles and retired Staff Sgt. Louis Licalzi, who is a singer, will also participate.

For more information, call the Parade Chief-of-Staff Anthony Giovinco at 917-664-8850.