UPPER WEST SIDE — With the 112-year-old Soldiers' and Sailor's Monument looming in the background and hundreds of uniformed military members and civilians before him, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke of honoring the dead and fighting for better care of veterans during a Memorial Day service.
The ceremony at the Riverside Drive and West 89th Street monument remembered those who have served the country and also marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The monument honors veterans from that war.
"This is a day to think about what more we should and can be doing [for homeless veterans,]" de Blasio told the crowd assembled under an already hot sun Monday morning.
The mayor reminisced about growing up surrounded by a generation full "of stories of heroes and patriotism." His own father lost half of his leg when it was hit by shrapnel in 1945 in Okinawa.
Before laying a wreath at the base of the 100-foot tall monument, de Blasio urged the crowd to "live today in a way that honors their sacrifice."
The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, urged people to go beyond just thanking a military member for his or her service, but to get to know them by asking them basic questions.
"Take a selfie with a sailor or a marine," he said. "Thank them in person."
Others spoke of the importance of "adopting" a veteran from a local veteran's hospital by making visits and taking an interest in his or her life.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who helped finance the restoration of the plaza in front of the aging monument, said large structures like Soldiers' and Sailors' are "for all moments," and not just Memorial Day — as a place reminding us to reflect on sacrifice and also on the need for peace worldwide.