PHOTOS: Crowds fill downtown Orlando for Veterans Day Parade

Parade honors Purple Heart recipients and their families

By Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor

Parts of downtown Orlando shut down Saturday morning as the city held its 19th annual Veterans Day Parade.

Patriotic music filled downtown as crowds of servicemen and women, their families, and supporters lined the streets. Everyone came out to say thank you to those who served.

"I'm so proud of our servicemen," said Wasana Cooper, a parade attendee and wife of an Air Force veteran.

More than 50 Central Florida veteran organizations, active-duty military, high school JROTCs and UCF's AFROTC participated. Several local bands also marched during the parade.

This year's parade focused on honoring Purple Heart recipients and their families. The Purple Heart is the nation's oldest military medal and is awarded to members of the armed forces wounded in combat.

Three grand marshals, all of whom are Purple Heart veterans, led the parade.

Tony Blaise is an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War. He said he comes to the parade every year and arrives early so he can get a good seat by the stage.

"It's very patriotic. I'm 70 years old now, so it's very patriotic to see young people doing the same thing I did 50 years ago," Blaise said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer kicked off the festivities. He said it is our duty and our honor to remember and thank those who served our country.

"I think this is one of the most important days in Orlando as we honor our veterans, those who fought and some who died to preserve the freedom that we enjoy today," Dyer said.

The parade is the community's way to say "thank you."

"Thank you so much for serving and recognizing our servicemen and the military," Cooper said. "We are a very strong country. We're very proud for what the servicemen did for our country."