SAN DIEGO - Thousands lined Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego Monday for the 11th annual Veterans Day Parade, which featured as grand marshal the retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier.
"You know it's an honor to be named grand marshal, it really is, especially in a Navy town," Yeger said at a pre-parade breakfast.
Retired Gen. Robert Cardenas, who piloted the B-29 bomber that launched Yeager's aircraft in 1947, and Bob Hoover, who flew the chase plane, were also honored in the parade.
"I couldn't lift the nose wheel of the B-29 more than 10 inches off the ground otherwise I would have scraped the X-1, but we got it into the air and we were successful," said Cardenas, who lives in San Diego.
Former prisoners of war, World War II veterans who recently took part in an "Honor Flight" to Washington, D.C., to see a memorial honoring that conflict, Mayor Jerry Sanders and numerous high school marching bands also participated.
"Most parents come to watch their kids in a parade… We came to watch our parent," said a tearful Leslie Granger. She came with other family members to see Walter Travis, a WWII veteran.
Others came to the parade simply to say "thank you" to veterans for their service.
The Edwards family handed out 150 handwritten thank you cards.
"It was just the right thing to do," said Michele Edwards. Her daughter Abigail and two friends will now write cards to send to servicemen and women overseas.
For one veteran, the gesture was almost overwhelming.
"I tell you, it was a real healing… a real blessing," said Wayne Reiner, who like so many other Vietnam Veterans never received a welcome home or a "thank you" for what they did.
"There have been times when we veterans had thought people kind of forgotten us, and this day focuses on the fact that they haven't," a man wearing a cap signifying service in the Korean War told a local media outlet. "We appreciate it very much."
The parade was one of several events around San Diego over the holiday weekend to honor veterans, including a service at the Mt. Soledad Memorial on Saturday and a college basketball game aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum on Sunday.