Gov. Rick Scott -- a Navy veteran himself -- Mayor Alvin Brown and the oldest male and female veterans in Jacksonville were grand marshals in Jacksonville's Veterans Day Parade through the streets downtown Monday.
"It's a very patriotic day," Marine Corporal Peter Andrews said. "Makes you feel good about being an American."
The parade stepped off at 11:01 a.m. Monday after a moment of silence at the reviewing stand in front of the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Water, Newman and Bay streets were lined with thousands of people paying tribute to active servicemen, and veterans who have dedicated their lives to this country.
"Thank God for their service. They defended our freedom," Gov. Scott said. "I think of my father who was in the 82 Airborne, doing all the combat jumps in the second World War."
The parade included 4,000 participants, from Brownie troops to World War II veterans in restored Army Jeeps, tanks and other equipment. More than 1,800 students from area schools marched as parts of JROTC units or marching bands.
Corp. Andrews brought his two children to the parade to educate them about the history and honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"I try to tell them about remembering the importance of those who have served for their country," Andrews said. "Some of them dedicated their lives, gave their lives to make sure they're free, so they could go to good schools and have everything that they do have."
Military mom Betty Brown wouldn't help but share her pride and patriotism as she fondly reflected on the service of her three sons.
"I take away freedom, and happiness, and love," Brown said.
Channel 4's Kent Justice and Adrienne Moore handled announcing duties Monday for the two-hour long parade that at times stretched from the Prime Osborn Convention Center to EverBank Field.
Veterans said they are proud this city puts on such a big event to honor Veterans Day.
"It's obvious Jacksonville is trying to do the right things for our city," said David Hixon. "It's very important for us."
The parade was also an opportunity for the community to donate supplies and food for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Four drop-off bins were located along the route.