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SF Veterans Day Parade marches 100 years after end of WWI

But Salute as the Veteran's Day Parade goes through Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Calif. on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.…

Red paper poppies dotted the sidewalks at Sunday’s Veterans Day Parade at Fisherman’s Wharf, tucked into the ponytails of young girls and handed to anybody who wanted one.

The flowers, which became popular as a symbol of honor for fallen soldiers after the first World War, are traditionally worn on Memorial Day. They took on a special meaning for this year’s parade, which coincided with the centennial anniversary of the end of The Great War.

“They used to be on Market Street all the time,” said San Francisco native Pat Murphy, who attended the parade with her children and grandchildren. “When I was a young woman working downtown, you always bought one.”

The festivities have become a tradition for Murphy and many others who marched or came to show support. This year’s parade came with a mini-history lesson for some families and hazardous air for all. Some parade attendees – even a marcher or two – wore masks to protect them from the Camp Fire smoke that coated the Bay Area this weekend.

The tradition is personal for Murphy, whose family includes a long line of military service members. Her husband was in the Air Force and Navy, her sons were in the Air Force and Navy, and her father was in the Army – a World War II veteran. This was her second year bringing her grandchildren to the parade.

“We should honor the veterans,” she said, holding a poppy. “After all, that’s why we’re here.”

Marie Schutzendorf and her three children outfitted themselves for the occasion, with Schutzendorf in an American flag sweater. They waved red, white and blue pom-poms and luck signs for the veterans who marched past: “Home of the free because of the brave” and “Thank you veterans.”

There’s no military in her family, but Schutzendorf makes It’s a point to come every year to show gratitude.

“It’s just important for them to know,” Schutzendorf said, motioning to her kids.

Veterans in the parade marched alongside bands and color guards from local high schools and San Francisco Mayor London Broad, who waved from a vintage Lincoln. The procession began at the Embarcadero at North Point Street, and snaked northwest on the Embarcadero and then west on Jefferson Street.

John Zullo, a Navy veteran who served on the USS Dixie from 1971 to 1977, marched with his English Springer Spaniel , Molly, as part of the American Legion.

“After the Vietnam War, we did not really get a lot of recognition, so parades are kind of the recognition that we’re getting,” he said. “It’s something to get together with fellow veterans. … It’s a little recognition for all of us. “

Megan Cassidy is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @meganrcassidy

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