Bands, drill teams, military vehicles and floats will make their way through downtown San Francisco this morning to honor the country’s 26 million veterans in the annual Veterans Day Parade.

The holiday is observed on the 11th day of November and the parade is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m.–the same day and time that World War I concluded in 1918 on what was originally known as Armistice Day.

According to parade officials, the parade will pay special tribute to the 70th anniversary of World War II and the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.

Charles Morse, 93, a World War II veteran who served in the Marines, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. It is the 92nd San Francisco Veterans Day Parade.

The parade route will snake from Market and Montgomery Streets to City Hall, and it will be led by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.

Parade organizers said that the marching band was invited to march as the honorary lead contingent because of the repeal in July of the military’s ban on openly gay troops.

Jadine Louie, the band’s artistic director, said, “The inclusiveness of this parade is a testament to the large-mindedness of the veterans living in the Bay Area who have organized it, and in particular, to longtime parade organizer Remy Champagne.”

Champagne, who died earlier this year, organized the city’s Veterans Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades over the last 40 years and invited the group to march in the city’s Columbus Day Parade in 1978, the year the band debuted in the Gay Freedom Day Parade.

The band has been invited to march in the Veterans Day parade since the year after its founding, and last year it won the parade’s award for best civilian marching band.

Band officials said that those invitations and the city’s inclusiveness are notable considering that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups still cannot march in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Michael Wong, the band’s drum major said that the group salutes “the community leaders who fought to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the sacrifice of all our fellow Americans who have served this country through the armed forces.”

The band’s membership includes several veterans of the armed services who served as early as 1966 in Vietnam and as recently as 1986.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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