A Long Line of Heroes Saluted on Veteran’s Day

14 Nov


    

American pride was evident everywhere one looked at the opening ceremony of the 92nd annual Veteran’s Day Parade in Madison Square Park. Marching bands were tuning up, highly decorated officers were huddling, veterans from different war eras greeted each like long time friends do. Rachel and I couldn’t help but get caught up in all the excitement especially when celebrity Cuba Gooding Jr. appeared and met with the surviving Tuskegee Airmen and the actors from Off Broadway hit Black Angels Over Tuskegee. The much highly anticipated George Lucas film “Red Tails” starring Mr. Gooding is due for release January 2oth.  The ceremony got under way and as usual US Senator Chuck Schumer got the crowd all riled up especially with some good news of benefit for our veterans. A VIP that commanded the respect and attention of all those present was retired General David H. Petraeus, US Army and  current Director of the CIA.  The Honorable Mayor Bloomberg and Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations made some inspirational remarks of the days’ meaning for our veterans.  Closing the ceremony out was a 21 gun salute for those fallen heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation and a playing of taps.  Rachel and I made our way on to the parade route on 5th Ave. and 26th St. and then the fun really started.

     

  With over 25,000 marchers including 22 marching bands from all over the country, representatives from all our our Armed Forces, cadets and JROTC from our area, civic and youth groups and of course all the US Veterans Groups promised to make this the largest and best Veterans parade in America.  The mounted police rode up 5th Ave. signaling the start of the parade with this years lead band from Nelson County HS soon followed by the NYPD band and the FDNY Pipes and Drum band.  Right after them rolled up a huge statue named “de Oppresso Liber” translated meaning “Free the Oppressed”. Later that day at a separate ceremony Vice President Joe Biden dedicated the Special Forces statue featuring a soldier on a mountain horse riding  into combat in Afghanistan. Talk about back to the future. Horses were not used in war since World War I. The next part of the parade was my personal favorite. The parade got stalled abit and in front of me was a convertible Cadillac with none other than Seargant Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam Era. If you want to see what a real hero looks like just take a look. He got out of the car and we shook hands. I thanked him for his heroics and for representing what it means to come from the home of the brave. He then went and shook hands with the crowd until the parade started moving again. Earlier in the ceremony at Madison Square Park, Seargant Meyer had the opportunity to greet the oldest receipient of the Medal of Honor, Nicholas Oresko,who at 94 years young, insisted on meeting the young hero. It was a special moment for both of them as it was for those who saw it. Only in NY.

       

     The parade picked up when the US Army 2nd Battalion 309th Regiment marched up 5th Ave followed by the Seneca East HS Marching band from Attica,Ohio. Getting the crowd worked up were the US Marine Corp. 6th Communication Battalion marching just ahead of energetic Edina HS Marching Band from Minnesota. The first veteran marchers were from the Korean War. In unison with them were Korean military veterans showing off banners of alliance as they stood strong with our vets. Two really dynamic bands from Centaurus HS of Lafayette, Colorado and Maastricht Scoutinband from the Netherlands introduced the World War II veterans while a float showing the iconic symbol of a sailor kissing a woman after victory was declared were followed by a group of children holding pictures of fallen heroes.  A group of veterans that got a loud round of applause were our Vietnam veterans.  Close behind them were enthusiastic East Limestone HS Band from Athens, Alabama.  I’m glad there was a considerable amount of time and distance between when Army marched and when the Navy band appeared.  Those two might have gone at it if they were any closer. Check out an Army/Navy football game live and you’ll know what I mean. There really is no other college football game like it in the country.  Some really great marching bands kept the celebration going including the Mountain Ridge HS from Frostburg, Maryland, Maury HS Marching Band from Norfolk, Virginia and Pickerington HS Band from Ohio.

            

            

     Never too late for the party came flying in was the US Air Force 328th Airlift Squadron and the Combat Training Squadron with their field support team soon followed by the Valley Forge  Military Academy and College. A crowd favorite were the Las Vegas Youth Entertainers singing it up for the crowd. Who knows if the next star on American Idol or X Factor were on that float. Yes, they were that good. Another crowd pleaser were the next group of veterans aptly names “The New Greatest Generation“. the Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans. They have today’s technology to help spread the word and organize like no other group has before them. They can mobilize and educate groups around them with quickness and ease much like how they learned in the battlefield. I was taking in their whole march with pride and it was kicked up a notch higher when an African American marcher spotted a white American Korean army vet watching the parade and they both starting singing the army dogface soilder song.  Another time in our nation’s history and that might not have ever happened.  Closing out the proud display of marching bands were the Lebanon HS Band from Pennsylvania, New Amsterdam  HS Band from New York, and Harrisonburg HS Band from Virginia.

           

     Rachel and I met up towards the end of the parade and took in all the incredible things we witnessed. With all the bickering and anger going on around in DC and other parts of the country, it was a welcome relief to see part of the greatness this nation is. The veterans basked in the glory of knowing this was their day to shine. Much of the crowd was heard over and over saying thank you to these brave men and women who made a huge sacrifice to serve for their country when called upon.  It was also a day to honor all the support groups that aid and assist our veterans when they come back home. At the morning ceremony I saw a Blue Star Mother become emotional remembering a loved one only to be held and consoled by the daughter of a Tuskagee Airman. Later on Rachel saw members of the Operation Mend group get some encouragement from Sopranos star Tony Sirico. Think she overheard him telling a recovering Marine  something along the lines of ..you better get better or else ..you don’t wanna know.  One of the biggest support groups by far was the Wounded Warrior Project, helping soilders in the transition from service to civilian life. Chase Bank was promoting their 100,000 Jobs Mission program that began in March and is helping to promote the idea with other like minded companies. One of the nicest things to see in the parade was the involvement of our youth from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the JROTCs  and especially watching the Francis Lewis HS Army JROTC march with precision. If this any indication of what America’s military future looks like, rest assured we are in good hands.

    

Stars and Stripes Forever

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-702935

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