Sandy Can’t Stop the Greatest Generation

14 Nov

     

     New Yorkers have always had a tough as nails reputation. That take no bull attitude has always set us apart from any other great city in this nation. New Yorkers have been through plenty of adversity throughout the years and the storm of the century just added to the list. Yes, many Staten Islanders are suffering and many that live by the coastal sections lost everything. Sandy was the Big One people had been talking all about for years and she hit us hard. But catastrophic events like this help bring people together not tear them apart.  Nearly two weeks after Sandy wrecked havoc in New York and New Jersey, people were ready to cheer about something as the 93rd edition of the largest Veteran’s Day Parade in the country was set to kick off at the start of the parade route on 23rd St. and 5th Ave. This year’s Grand Marshall was no other than the  Honorable former Mayor Ed Koch.   Who else can have a bridge named after him while he’s still alive. Mayor Koch is about as New York as you can get. After the Honorable current Mayor Bloomberg made his way up the parade route to the cheers of the crowd, the fun really started for all those waiting on a warm Sunday afternoon on 5th Ave.

   

   

      This year, parade organizers decided to honor the Navajo Code Talkers who were so instrumental in WWII.  The Navajo Code Talkers were young Navajo men who transmitted secret communications on the battlefields of WWll. “At a time when America’s best known cryptographers were falling short, these modest sheepherders and farmers were able to fashion the most ingenious and successful codes in military history. They drew upon their proud warrior tradition to brave the dense jungles of Guadalcanal and the exposed beachheads of Iwo Jima,” according to their website. Another group that was honored were the service dogs of many breeds all throughout the many wars this country has been involved in.   The most recent military dog to be honored will be Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, who parachuted with the Navy SEAL team into the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan where he alerted his companions to the movements of people around the compound. His work aided in the killing of the notorious terrorist.

     

     The first of the Armed Forces to march their way up the parade route was the Army Battalion soon followed by the Marine Corps. Good thing they were a good distance apart; they never have anything good to say about each other. Veteran’s Day Parade draws some of the better bands in the country to show off their skills and the Prospect Marching Knights from Mount Prospect, Illinois got the crowd really worked up. One of largest participants with over 700 marchers were the Wounded Warrior Project carrying the largest American flag of the parade. Their float had a simple motto: Mission: to honor and empower wounded warriors. Then the part that everyone waited for…a chance to thank and praise the Veterans. The first group was part of the Greatest Generation from World War II. School aged children carried large pictures of veterans in honor of the Spirit of ’45. A float carried some of the remaining WWII vets as they waved to the applauding crowd. The next group of vets came from the Korean War and they were accompanied by Korean veterans that served. Even a group of Korean marchers and dancers helped keep the celebration moving in high gear. In between groups of vets came more Armed Forces as the Navy and Air Force marched without so much as a grin but the crowd just loved it. The next group of vets were from the Vietnam War. The crowd gave them the applause and honor they didn’t get when they returned from half way around the globe back in the 70s when Nixon ended the war. The show stealer this year surprisingly had to be the  Coast Guard. Their marching band and uniforms were the envy of the parade.  They were warming things up for the last group of vets known as the Next Greatest Generation from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and yes they were by far the loudest.  The great work of Operation Mend was on display for all to see. This group helps mend soldiers burned in the line of duty. The crowd was treated to a trio of  lively USO singers. Every year a different band is requested to play at the parade by Mayor Bloomberg and this years group came in from Portsmouth in the UK.  They were really good.

     

     This year, the veterans asked people to bring coats and other clothing to be donated to the people most affected by the devastating storm Sandy. Plenty of people I know were inconvenienced with the loss of power or having to wait long hours to get gasoline. But when you measure that against what some of these men and women went through in the battlefields in Europe, or in Korea or Vietnam or in the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan, it really pales in comparison. These men and women were along way from home never knowing if they would ever come back; many miles away to protect our freedom from the forces that wish to destroy it. Long live the red, white and blue.

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