Jacksonville celebrates veterans with annual parade

4,000 participate in largest parade city has had for Veterans Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville community came together Friday to honor the nation's veterans with the annual Veterans Day Parade. Thousands of people lined the streets to show their appreciation for the area's vets.

Veterans and community members took to the streets to celebrate the brave men and women fighting for America.

"I am just so proud of all these people that will put themselves last and the country first,” parade watcher Deborah Miller said. “They have families. They leave them to do this for us, and that just opens my heart up, and I just want to thank them all for everything they do."

IMAGES: Jacksonville Veterans Day Parade

The parade included floats, marching bands, balloons, dance team performances and even an appearance by Uncle Sam.

The patriotism could be felt in the sea of red, white and blue.

"It is awesome because it shows the unity of the country,” Marine Corps veteran Lolita Smith said. “That people are willing to serve far, close, whatever it takes to serve our citizens."

Smith said it was her calling to serve and she continues her service as a police lieutenant with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

"It is a brother and sisterhood,” Smith said. “No matter what branch, we're one because we have the same mission to protect."

More than 100 organizations and 4,000 participants came out this year for the Veterans Day Parade, which was the largest the city has ever had.

World War II veteran Frank Purpura, 91, hasn't missed a parade.

“I love it,” Purpura said. "It's unbelievable. It's hard to believe how nice people really are."

Purpura said he has no regrets when it comes to serving his country.

"I'd go back into it if they called me," he said. "I really would."