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Long IslandHistory

NYC parade helps strengthen bond among veterans

Korean War veteran Bill McMahon, 79, of Staten

Korean War veteran Bill McMahon, 79, of Staten Island at the Veterans Day Parade in Manhattan on Nov. 11, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Martin Evans

The two men had been tested together along the forbidding roads of Afghanistan's Helmand province, driving in military convoys under the gaze of unseen enemies -- not knowing when the next explosion would come, not knowing if they would make it home.

Tuesday, they were together again, this time on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue -- this time under the gaze of adoring crowds, this time safe in the American homeland they had fought to defend.

"It's a great feeling to be here with people who've been through what you've gone through," Marine Reserve Sgt. Victor Reynoso, 38, of Westbury, said.

"The bond is indescribable," fellow Marine Gunnery Sgt. Andrei Blake, 33, of Springfield Gardens, Queens, said.

For them and scores of other Long Island veterans who marched in Tuesday's Veterans Day parade, it was a time to accept the public gratitude of cheering crowds, and to bask in the more private acceptance of fellow veterans who know the often painful sacrifice of military service.

Former Army Sgt. Michael Cross, 33, of Bellport, spoke of the sacrifice of a childhood friend from Bellport, who joined the Army with him, but who died in March of a cancer believed to be connected to his military service, just days after his 33rd birthday.

He said the friend, Amin Mann, had struggled after a troubling combat deployment, but had regained his balance after the two men reached out to each other for emotional support.

"I'm marching in memory of him," Cross said, explaining that this was the first Veterans Day parade in which he's marched. "I felt I needed this. I missed the military, the camaraderie, my brothers and sisters."

He said the parade was comforting because he was surrounded by fellow veterans who know the inner anguish that months of combat stress and incidents of personal loss can impose.

"Just being around people who know what I'm going through, but who are laughing and not depressed, it lets me know there is life after war."

Hayley Kinghan, 28, a tourist who usually celebrates Remembrance Day in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was shocked to see the crowd so thin. "I always go to the parade at home," Kinghan said, adding she attended New York City's because "I want to honor all the people who have given their lives for us."

As the parade swept past Rockefeller Center, Korean War veteran Bill McMahon, 79, of Staten Island, waved from the sidewalk.

War has touched him profoundly. He took part in the September 1950 Battle of Inchon. His father fought in World War II. One of his brothers died in a veterans hospital after serving in Vietnam. And he carries the telegram that informed his parents that another brother, Lawrence McMahon, was killed in action in Vietnam's Quang Tri province on Sept. 19, 1966.

He said their service and his has made him extremely patriotic, and determined to let fellow veterans know they share an unshakable bond.

"I just have to come here and support these guys," McMahon said. "I just have to."

With Sheila Anne Feeney

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