President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to kick off the New York City Veterans Day Parade next week.
United War Veterans Council Chairman Douglas McGowan and the White House said on Wednesday that Trump will offer a tribute to veterans at the opening ceremony of Monday's 100th annual parade. While presidents have always been invited to the parade, McGowan said that, as far as he knows, Trump is the first to accept.
After his remarks, the president will lay a wreath at the Eternal Light memorial in Madison Square Park, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
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Security plans are in development, city officials said. There has been talk Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue could be closed to cars during the president's visit, but Mayor de Blasio called that talk premature. He also described Trump's visit as "unusual" in an open-air setting like the parade route, given the security challenges, but added, this is not about Trump but the vets.
Trump, who is deeply unpopular in his hometown of New York, has been a longtime promoter of the parade.
During the 1990s, he pledged a donation of $200,000 and offered to raise money from friends in exchange for being named the parade's grand marshal, The New York Times reported at the time. He also donated toward the creation of the city's Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"This is a day when we put politics aside to focus on honoring our veterans, and to re-commit ourselves as a community to providing them with the services they have earned, the services they deserve and, for many, the services they were denied," McGowan said in a statement.
The announcement comes just days after news broke that the Republican president, who was born in Queens, has officially changed his residency to Florida, where he owns several properties, including the Mar-a-Lago club, where he spends many winter weekends.
More than 25,000 parade participants including veterans, active duty military personnel and their supporters are expected to march along Fifth Avenue.
At last year's parade, marching bands played patriotic songs and onlookers waved American flags. That parade commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.