CHICAGO (WBBM) – Following a wreath-laying ceremony in Daley Plaza, thousands marched in, and thousands more watched this year’s Memorial Day weekend parade down State Street.

Wave after wave of junior ROTC cadets from a handful of Chicago high schools were right behind Mayor Emanuel and the 58th U.S. Army Band, to lead off the parade.

“I was very inspired by that…they’re our future,” said American Legion First Division past commander Roberto Lopez, who served in the Army 1963-1967 and was once in ROTC himself.

Youngsters were inspired also. One girl, who appeared to be about 2 and wore a shirt that read “I love the USA,” sat atop her father’s shoulders and eagerly waved a tiny American flag.

Ryan Haas of Palatine is a bit older but is still in grade school. He said he loved the parade, and what Memorial Day means.

“It’s awesome and it has everything good from the Marines and we celebrate the Marines,” he said.

Haas said he would like to pursue a career in the Marine Corps.

The crowd cheered Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who walked at the head of the parade for the first two blocks — his first parade since taking office. He appeared to enjoy the ceremonial duties of his job. A number of those lining the route applauded, called his name and cheered. Emanuel waved back, smiled, and gave a number of fans thumbs-up signs.

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