Despite the absence of active duty Sailors and Marines, due to the cancellation of Fleet Week, the 13th annual Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade gave a well-deserved salute to the neighborhood’s own military history.
From its earliest days, as the birthplace of the USS Monitor, to its distinction as the zip code that lost the most servicemen during World War I, to the Manhattan Avenue and India Street tribute to US Marine Corp. Sergeant Nicholas Aleman, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, Greenpoint abounds with memorials to the wars in which its sons and daughters have fought. Last Sunday, the community said “thank you,” as they cheered its veterans marching in the Manhattan Avenue parade.
“The parade isn’t just by and for veterans,” said Rick Kenney of the St. Stanislaus Memorial American Legion Post # 1771, which co-sponsored the event with the Lexington Council # 293, Knights of Columbus and the Greenpoint Lions Club. “It’s for everyone in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community, especially the children, who need to understand the vital role of the military to the security of our country.”
This year’s Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade was led by Grand Marshals and life-long Greenpointers, Frank Moley and Jimmy Hesse, members of St. Stan’s Post and Korean War veterans. The two, along with fellow Marine and Korean War veteran Carl Licht, voluntarily maintain the Post’s Leonard Street site. As in years past, the parade left from the Post and headed to St. Anthony’s for a Mass celebrating all U.S. Veterans, living and deceased. The parade then retraced its route, heading back to the Post for a memorial service, flag-raising and moment of silence in tribute to the veterans. Next came the afterparty, featuring refreshments and a USO Show by the Liberty Belles troupe.
In addition to its national role, advocating to the Defense Department, Veterans Administration and Congress to protect and enhance veteran benefits, the American Legion serves a vital local purpose. “Military Veterans, regardless of their branch of service, are a unique fraternity, that has experienced a lifestyle, whether in garrison or in combat, that sets them apart from the rest of the population,” Kenney explained. “The Legion Post is a place where they can come and share stories and ‘in-jokes’ (reference so many M*A*S*H* episodes) that are sometimes dumb, humorous, gallant or terrifying, but always proud.”
Current and former service members are always welcome at the Post, where Trained Service Officers can advise them on available benefits, scholarships, medical care and assist in filing disability claims. It’s also a place of “therapy,” Kenney added, “where Vets can gripe about the legendary lousy chow, or find out that their problems and concerns are common to many other Vets. [That] therapy may take the form of a beer with buddies, a game of shuffleboard, or a good cry in the arms of a comrade who has ‘been there and done that.’”
In addition to its co-sponsors, the annual parade is made possible through contributions from many local businesses and individual supporters. The parade also paid special tribute to the eight million World War II veterans, of whom only slightly more than one million are still alive.
“Today, very few neighborhood parades survive,” Kenney remarked, “but Greenpoint is a unique and wonderful place that welcomes and appreciates its sons and daughters, whatever their contribution to our culture and our country.”