The city’s Veterans Day Parade Sunday was sparse on the spectator side, wet and chilly, but as always, full of toasty gratitude for those who have served in the military so Americans can enjoy so many freedoms.

The lack of a crowd helped the parade take on a quaint feel in some ways — people chatted with others they didn’t know — and the owners of Rainbow Gardens Restaurant ran around taking orders for coffee and hot chocolate to thank people for coming in the rainy weather.

Some parked along the Green and watched from their cars.

Vietnam combat veteran Dominick Turdo of Milford, who served in the 25th infantry division in 1968-1969, was the first spectator to arrive, about 30 minutes before the start. There was a steady stream of rain at that point, but Turdo wasn’t going to miss it, joking that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a bird’s-eye view.

“It’s a shame, but as veterans you deal with all kinds of good luck and bad luck and you make the best of it,” Turdo said of the weather.

Even though it’s nearly 50 years since he served, Turdo still gets choked up talking about the sacrifices of veterans.

“Our freedoms and everything we have here is because of our veterans,” he said. “I’m a lucky one. I made it home. A lot of people didn’t.”

The rain let up a bit during the marching and kicked up again during a brief ceremony in the gazebo led by dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3,who mentioned 58,000 casualties in the Vietnam War. Mayor Ben Blake thanked veterans for their service and proclaimed: “We’re not going to let a little rain ruin our parade.”

Parade Grand Marshal Richard Platt, who served four years active duty in the U.S. Navy, was the city’s longtime historian and has served on local boards, said the best way to be a “good patriot” is for people to vote, take part in the political process, advocate for causes, speak up at hearings, serve on boards and commissions and peacefully protest, such as NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, although Platt noted the true reason they kneeled — to protest racial inequality — was obscured.

After encouraging civic action as a form of patriotism, Platt said, “We might find ourselves on different sides, but the dialogues and arguments that result are much better than inaction or indifference.”

Platt said Americans “must pay attention” to hate and intolerance, which he said brought forth the kneeling protest. He said another form of protest must be found for that issue because of the confusion.

The annual parade on nice weather days can draw thousands downtown — with a few deep in the popular spectator area by the reviewing stand in front of Rainbow Gardens.

There were fewer than 30 in that area Sunday — and a smattering of people throughout the rest of the route from City Hall to the gazebo area of the Green.

A parade committee official said they didn’t cancel for rain because the rain was supposed to arrive later in the day. By the time rain arrived, it was too late to cancel, she said.