NEW YORK (Army News Service, Nov. 11, 2013) -- The people of New York city honored the men and women who served the nation as they lined 5th Ave during "America's Parade" to celebrate Veterans Day.

"The true VIPs here today are the veterans, and I want to thank all of the veterans here who represent us from all the different services," Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno said during a ceremony prior to the start of the parade.

The 2013 Veterans Day parade in New York, N.Y., honored all veterans, with a special salute to past and present women who have served in the military. To highlight this, retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody was selected as the grand marshal of the parade. Odierno represented the featured service branch, the Army, as honorary grand marshal.

There are still more than 70,000 Soldiers deployed and thousands of Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen protecting the nation around the world, Odierno said.

"They stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. Those who (have) served this country from the very beginning," he continued. "They served because they have a love our country, the freedoms we enjoy, and the liberties we have. The reason they were willing to go anywhere in the world was to protect those freedoms and those liberties so their children could grow up in a better place."

Former Sgt. Gerald Brown, who served in Vietnam, from 1966 to 1967, with the 11th Cavalry Regiment, said they faced a different welcome home and were almost ashamed to put on the uniform.

"Now everywhere you go people say 'thank you' for your service," he said. "I love this because you have the new guy who is coming home from Afghanistan and places like that, and they are getting a whole lot of respect. People respect their servicemen more and they should because we have given so much."

An estimated 20,000 people, representing more than 200 groups, marched in the parade. Units from all of the services marched in the parade as well as veterans, first responders and youth groups. Thousands of New Yorkers lined 5th Avenue as the parade traveled from 23rd Street to 52nd Street.

The greatest treasure the people of the United States have are the freedoms they should not take for granted, Dunwoody said.

"It is so important to remember that our freedom is not free. It was won with the service and sacrifice of military and its veterans and it is being preserved by our military and veterans," she said.

"Everything that we enjoy in America the veteran fought for and stands for," Brown agreed.

"When we leave here today after we celebrated, remembered and honored the service and sacrifice of our veterans let us remember the current and next generation's service and sacrifice to guarantee the freedom we in America hold so dear," Dunwoody said.

Dunwoody left the audience with a challenge.

"When these brave men and women return from their demanding deployments, I encourage all of you to continue to support and embrace this new generation of veterans so that we can guarantee them a quality of life equal to their quality of service."