Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the U.S. Air Force's highest-ranking woman joined Mayor Bill de Blasio and others at the city's Veterans Day parade.
The Democratic De Blasio said he was "totally star-struck" when he met the 87-year-old Aldrin Saturday ahead of the parade that stepped off on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Aldrin served in the U.S. Air Force and was the second man on the moon, piloting the Apollo 11 and following Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface in 1969. Aldrin served as Grand Marshal, riding in a convertible and waving to the crowds.
"It's beautiful, so many people," he said.
Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski also attended, along with hundreds of other veterans who marched in the winter cold. The World War II veterans rode in a float with one former soldier holding a sign that read "Thank you for remembering." Others held U.S. flags or black-and-white photos of their loved ones, and dressed in historic uniforms. A man dressed as a sailor and a woman in a nurse's uniform re-enacted the famous World War II V-J Day kiss photo.
De Blasio said the U.S. must do more than just pay tribute to veterans; there should be better access to mental health and medical care, and more job opportunities for those who served.
"We are so proud to be a city where over 200,000 veterans live, veterans who have answered the call of duty and have traveled to the ends of the globe to protect liberty at home and abroad," de Blasio said. "For the sacred sacrifice of all veterans across this country, the 8.5 million Americans who call New York home will forever remain in the debt of their service."
The New York parade is the largest Veterans Day parade in the country.