How New York City’s Veterans Day Parade Has Become “America’s Parade”
The NYC Veterans Day Parade is the biggest veterans event in the nation.
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It’s put on by the United Veterans War Council and is nothing short of spectacular.
Anyone go this year? Years past?
Monday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, and tens of thousands are expected to line the streets of 5th Avenue in New York City for the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade. Produced by the United Veterans War Council and dubbed “America’s Parade,” it’s the largest veterans event in the country.
But it didn’t start out that way.
United Veterans War Council President Vince McGowan recently spoke with Business Insider about how the organization came to exist, and how it has grown the New York City Veterans Day Parade into the largest in the nation.
It all started when McGowan, as a Marine sergeant, returned home from the Vietnam War in 1968. He returned to a home that no longer heralded military service.
“I got home from Vietnam in ’68 to a very unwelcome country and an ungrateful nation,” McGowan said.
McGowan said that back then, Vietnam vets were barred from many of the organizations that existed for veterans, which were largely run by World War II and Korea War veterans.
“They said that Vietnam wasn’t a war,” McGowan said.
Eventually, in 1986, he decided to form his own group. Joining with a World War II vet and a Grenada vet, he named it the United Veterans War Council, after an organization that originally existed after the War of 1812.
“For me, it was personal,” McGowan said. “I’m certainly not someone who shrinks from a fight.”
McGowan said that from the outset, there was only one criteria that determined whether you could be a part of the UWVC — “Did you serve honorably?”
“It had nothing to do with anything else,” he said.
Then, in 1987, The American Legion decided to stop producing New York’s Veterans Day parade, in part, McGowan said, because of the controversy surrounding gay veterans who wanted to participate.
And so the UWVC took the helm. McGowan described those days as “25 guys with a snare drum marching down 5th Avenue.”
But soon the UWVC, and the New York Veterans Day parade began to grow, in part because of a $1 million matching donation from Donald Trump, and the parade began to grow.
“We were vindicated in taking a hard stance against popular opinion.”