By Anna Young
Hundreds of military veterans and service members were greeted with rapturous applause as they marched along the shores of Lake Gleneida in Carmel last Saturday during the state’s inaugural Medal of Honor Parade.
Those who attended were filled with pride celebrating the military’s finest members as veterans from all five military branches were represented. Marching bands, vintage cars and various fire departments joined the roughly .8-mile parade route.
Following the ceremony, elected officials gathered on the steps of the Putnam County Courthouse to honor those who have served.
“To have the first ever Medal of Honor parade here is absolutely incredible,” said Rita Cosby, founder of the New York State Medal of Honor Committee. “The real heroes are the men standing among us right now and their comrades and the ones who are still living and the ones (who) have passed on. Their stories are important not just for this generation but for your children.”
Cosby also implored attendees to encourage Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill making July 25 New York State Medal of Honor Day.
While the parade honored all veterans, active service members and the 666 Medal of Honor recipients accredited to New York, Medal of Honor recipients Robert O’Malley and Paul Bucha, who also served as the parades grand marshals, were recognized for their courageous service during the Vietnam War.
O’Malley, a U.S. Marine, received his Medal of Honor in 1966 for his actions as a corporal on Aug. 18, 1965, during Operation Starlite, the first major offensive regimental action during the Vietnam War. Bucha, a former Army captain, received his medal in 1970 for a reconnaissance-in-force mission against enemy forces near Phuoc Vinh.
Bucha, who was a foreign policy adviser to former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, encouraged attendees to not only thank a service member but provide their support and empathy whenever they can.
“Young men and women who wear the uniform of this great country are entitled to all we can do for them,” Bucha said. “It’s up to us to volunteer.”
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell honored both veterans by adding two American flags in their names to the county’s Row of Honor along Lake Gleneida.
“Today we honor our nation’s first responders,” said Odell, who also signed an executive order to keep the Row of Honor in place through November in honor of those who served.
Parade Co-chair Karl Rohde said it was a pleasure seeing veterans appreciated during Saturday’s event. He said the parade and festivities gave people a chance to talk to a veteran and thank them.
“This honors all veterans,” Rohde said. “Every veteran that served could have done something that earned them a congressional Medal of Honor. It’s a team and we’re all part of it. You’re honoring the Medal of Honor recipients and you’re honoring us all.”