Navy Veteran John Ward stood on the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets, braving frigid temperatures and saluting every current and former military service member who passed his way.
They included Mario Taricano, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran and the bass drummer in the American Legion Band of Waltham, Karen Scott, a Gulf War veteran, and Richard Johnsson, who spent 13 months in Iceland with the Navy.
"Whether it's 25 below or 75 degrees, every person should be here," Ward said, unfazed by the biting gale-force gusts. "Veterans need more individual attention."
Ward was one of a few hundred people who lined Boylston, Tremont, and Cambridge streets for Boston's Veterans Day parade on Wednesday, as former and active service members joined high schoolers training to be officers for a march through Boston Common to City Hall Plaza.
Outside the AMC theater on Tremont Street, throngs of shivering onlookers cheered as each group passed, and some waved miniature American flags.
A few hundred yards away, Pete November and his two sons, ages 6 and 8, tried to hold fast in the 35-degree windchill.
November, of Newton, said his sons learned how to fold an American flag Tuesday night in Cub Scouts, so he wanted to bring them to see real-life veterans. The objective of the day was to teach the boys, Lucas and Zach, that Nov. 11 is "more than just a day off of school."
Across the street, Greg Packer of Huntington, N.Y., wore an American flag sweat shirt, which he admitted was no accident. "It represents American pride," he said.
Beginning in 1919, on the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, to commemorate the bravery of military personnel in that conflict.
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory," Wilson said at the time.
In 1954, after the US military had fought in World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed to recognize veterans from all wars.
Tom Miller of the Navy and Vincent Cataldo of the Army are residents of the Soldiers' Home in Chelsea, a facility for Massachusetts veterans.
Like Ward, the veterans complained of the bureaucratic difficulties of receiving benefits, but praised Massachusetts for its quality of veterans care.
"When you lose a battle buddy, it's not like losing a friend," Cataldo said of the difficulties of returning home from service. "These are people you lived with, and you told them you were going to help them make it through. They were closer than me and my own brother."
Both men participated in Wednesday's parade.
At the conclusion of the parade, Scott, the Gulf War veteran, and Ruby James-Saucer, an officer with the American Legion Auxiliary of Massachusetts, stood on Boston Common near West Street to recap the day's events.
Both women distributed American flags to onlookers and lugged a large brown box with plenty more of them. They were disappointed when a friend told them someone in the crowd said they had never heard of Veterans Day.
The pair eventually focused on the bright spots of the day, including the scores of young people who watched or participated in the parade.
One was 17-year-old Cristian Hall of Dorchester, a senior at Charlestown High School.
Hall, a member of the Air Force ROTC program, has already enlisted in the Marine Corps. His classmates are getting ready for college, but he is not envious. Joining the Marine Corps will fulfill a lifelong dream, he said.
Astead W. Herndon
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