President Donald Trump kicked off New York City’s Veterans Day Tribute on Monday by saying the nation’s veterans “risked everything for us. Now it is our duty to serve and protect them every single day of our lives.”

The president spoke at the opening of the 100th annual parade organized by the United War Veterans Council in Madison Square Park. He is the first sitting president to accept the group’s invitation to speak at the event.

Trump told the crowd that the nation’s veterans often came face to face with evil and did not back down.

“You returned from war and you never forgot your friends who didn’t return,” Trump said. “But your greatest tribute of all is the way you lived your lives in the years since.”

Trump also used the event to tout the strength of the U.S. military and the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying “al-Baghdadi is dead. His second in charge is dead. We have our eyes on number 3.”

Trump has been a longtime supporter of the parade. The New York Times reported that during the 1990s he pledged $200,000 and offered to raise money from friends in exchange for being named the parade’s grand marshal.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the kickoff for the New York City's 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the kickoff for the New York City’s 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the New York City Veterans Day Parade at Madison Square Park, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the New York City Veterans Day Parade at Madison Square Park, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump speaks at the opening ceremony of the New York City Veterans Day Parade in New York, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
President Donald Trump speaks at the opening ceremony of the New York City Veterans Day Parade in New York, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Veterans listen as President Donald Trump speaks before the New York City Veterans Day Parade at Madison Square Park in New York, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Veterans listen as President Donald Trump speaks before the New York City Veterans Day Parade at Madison Square Park in New York, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)