BAY RIDGE — Hundreds of people lined the streets of Brooklyn Monday morning to honor fallen military veterans during the borough's annual Memorial Day parade, one of the oldest in the nation.
The parade kicked off at 87th Street and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge for the 146th year in a row, drawing many elected officials, community groups and former service members.
"It's beautiful," said George Kabbez, 85, who served in World War II as a maintenance man, working with diesel engines to provide electricity for radios.
"I went in at the tail end of the war and most of my guys are still alive, but I think of those who aren't," he said as he watched the parade go by. "Every day I wake up in the morning, I'm happy to be alive."
The Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade has been held in Bay Ridge for the last 21 years, organizers said, winding down Third Avenue to Marine Avenue, then up Fourth Avenue to John Paul Jones Park for a memorial wreath-laying service.
Monday's march featured a showing of vintage cars — including a 1929 Pontiac — plus local Boy and Girl Scout troops. Marching bands from Fort Hamilton and James Madison High School played everything from "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to "Eye of the Tiger."
Flatbush resident Richard Harris, 75, came out to watch the spectacle. He said he served as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War and was stationed mostly in Germany.
"This is a day of reflection," he said. "We appreciate this day because it means we made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of this country."
Bay Ridge resident Glenn Heiberg, 67, who was a machine gunner during Vietnam, said Memorial Day makes him think of his fellow service members who are still deployed overseas.
"On days like this, it's sentimental," he said. "I feel for these guys in Afghanistan. I feel for them."