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Parades honor vets, inspire hopes for peace

Jose Aleman, of Brooklyn, places flowers and says

Jose Aleman, of Brooklyn, places flowers and says a prayer while visiting the grave of his son, Nicholas Jose Aleman, at Pinelawn National Cemetery in East Farmingdale. (Nov. 11, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

Veterans Day parades in New York City and on Long Island brought out thousands to honor the service of men and women who served the nation.

Renamed America's Parade, the 94th annual New York City Veterans Day parade included 44,000 veterans from all branches of the armed forces.

Marching up Fifth Avenue from Madison Square Park to 52nd Street, the event aimed to reflect the first parade when John Joseph Pershing led 25,000 World War I veterans along the same route after signing the armistice that ended the war.

Sgt. Vincent McGowan, a Vietnam veteran and president of the United War Veterans Council, said it was fitting to have America's Parade in New York City.

"Historically, New York City has always reached its goals and sustained, just like our nation," he said, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio attended. De Blasio told the crowd about his father, who served in World War II, and lost a leg.

"I watched the emotional and physical challenges he faced and remembered his stories and memories that carried this sense of sacrifice," he said.

After the ceremony, World War II veteran Hebert A. Starr, 96, formerly of Westhampton, said, "Without us, this country would not exist. We are the defenders of freedom."

The cost of freedom also was a sentiment held in Kings Park, where more than 250 people gathered for a parade.

"It's vitally important to remember the veterans who served this country," said Dan Guilfoil, first assistant chief of the Kings Park Fire Department and a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant. "The price of freedom isn't free."

Albert Mlodynia, post commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5796, which has organized the parade since 1950, told attendees the holiday was about letting veterans know they are "deeply appreciated for the sacrifices they have made."

The parade began at Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School on Old Dock Road, turning onto Church Street.

The route was shorter this year because the New York State Department of Transportation required a new permit to march down Main Street, said Mlodynia, who added the group did not have enough time to complete it.

About 15 groups, including American Legion Donald C. Munroe Post 944, local Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, as well as heritage organizations, walked in the parade, in which the Kings Park High School Royalettes and band performed.

Smithtown town Councilmen Robert Creighton and Kevin Malloy also attended.

Anthony Paruolo, a veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne, remembered returning home after the Vietnam War.

"It was very difficult. . . . In 1970, you were looked down on," said Paruolo, grand knight of the Father Seyfreid Council #821 Knights of Columbus. "Maybe this time with these veterans coming home we can . . . make sure they get the proper education, employment and proper counseling so they feel more respected."

The parade took on a reverent tone during its conclusion at Veterans Plaza, featuring prayers, a wreath presentation, gun salute and the playing of Taps.

In recognition of armistice, at 11 a.m. the nearby firehouse sounded an alarm for peace.

Susan Agruso, superintendent of the Kings Park school district, said it was important to not only remember veterans' service, but "bring to our ceremonies a hope that some day all we will know of war is what we read in our history books, because what you have done has brought us the peace we so desire."

With Maria Alvarez

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