SAN DIEGO - The 27th annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown San Diego Monday honored those who fought in Vietnam.
The one-mile parade began at 11 a.m. adjacent to the County Administration Building at North Harbor Drive and Grape Street, and wound up at Pacific Highway and G Street.
Organizers call the event a "long-deserved special thank you" to the people who served in uniform between 1962 and 1975. It is a theme that many believed was long overdue.
"It is overdue because there are many Vietnam Veterans who still haven't received their welcome home," said Jay Vargas, a Medal of Honor recipient and San Diego resident who was a co-grand marshal for the parade. John Baca, another local Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam, shared co-grand marshal honors.
The parade route on Harbor Drive was new this year as was the title sponsor, the USS Midway, which donated $100,000 to parade organizers.
"It's time we honored the warrior and not the war," said Phil Landis, a Vietnam veteran now with Veterans Village.
A number of Vietnam veterans were among those who watched the parade.
"I came back home whole, but I get emotional seeing the guys who were injured and remembering those who didn't come back," said John McClain, a Navy veteran of the war.
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Before the parade, junior ROTC members from throughout San Diego County competed in a drill competition in front of the county building. The students marched in the parade.
A Veterans Day blood drive to benefit the San Diego Blood Bank was held at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of the USS Midway. Donors receive a free ticket to visit the aircraft carrier museum.
A festival was held aboard the Midway from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., featuring music, food and appearances by Olympic athletes. The event is included in the price of admission. Veterans and active-duty military are free -- plus three family members -- with their military identification.
In Oceanside, the Veterans Association of North County held a Veterans Day ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. at the VANC Hall, 1617 Mission Ave.
Other celebrations included a flag raising tribute at Seaworld San Diego and the addition of six more names of the fallen to a memorial wall in San Marcos.