Thousands honor veterans at San Fernando Valley parade

More than 3,000 people turned out Monday for the San Fernando Valley Veterans Day Parade, which included a flyover and hundreds of U.S. flags.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, acted as grand marshal for the parade, which kicked off shortly after 11 a.m. near Pacoima with crowds lined up and waving along the route.

Rosemary Hernandez went to see her family member Richard Hernandez, a recipient of three Purple Hearts, marching in the parade. But she also remembered her brother, Michael Bustamante, who died while fighting in Vietnam in 1969.

"I come out every year to honor all of them," Rosemary Hernandez said as she clapped and waved. "Some people were luckier to be able to come back and others were not so lucky."

As the parade made its way down Laurel Canyon Boulevard to the Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, the World War II-era planes of the Condor Squadron, based in Van Nuys, flew overhead.

The parade drew many veterans, some of whom were there to pay tribute to fallen comrades.

Before the start of the parade, Emilio De La Cruz, a veteran of the Marine Corps, stood on the sidewalk.

He said he attended the parade "to salute the veterans marching in the parade and those who are not able to march."

He has endured lingering effects of the defoliant Agent Orange, which he was exposed to during the Vietnam War, and he needs the assistance of a walker to get around.

"In spite of whether we're alive or dead, we did it for our country and for those people sitting on the sidewalks," he said.

Cresencio Sanchez was drafted into the Army and deployed to Korea in 1953. He attends the parade every year and wears his Korean War veteran cap in hopes of finding other Korean War vets with whom to reminisce about "the way things used to be."

"I even take it to the casinos sometimes," he said of his headwear.

Many spectators lining the boulevard yelled "Thank you!" to the veterans, waving flags in the air.

Brandon Warner, 6, got a special treat at the event. As someone marching in the parade passed by, he handed Brandon a miniature American flag.

The boy strolled out to the street with his outstretched hands to retrieve it. Then he returned to his grandmother's side with a wide smile and waited for his grandfather, a Marine veteran, to pass by and see him waving the flag.

james.barragan@latimes.com