Standing along the sidewalk in front of Long Beach Catholic Regional School, nearly 100 students began singing “God Bless America” as a man in a wheelchair moved up the line, shaking the children’s hands as he went.
Cpl. Joshua Himan, a United States Marine from Dale City, Va., sustained a spinal injury after an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan destroyed his Humvee in 2009. The school got word Tuesday that he and his family were coming to stay at the Allegria Hotel as part of a program by Long Beach Waterfront Warriors, an organization started in 2009 that brings wounded vets and their families to the city for some recreation.
“We were so excited to hear that he was coming,” said principal Veronica Danca of Himan, who spent a year-and-a-half at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. before returning home in April. “We know how blessed we are by living near the ocean, and we love to share that blessing with others. Especially somebody who has done so much for us and for our country.”
Since January the school has raised more than $7,000 for the Warriors. The school also “adopted” Himan and his family, dedicating a portion of its donation for his transportation to Long Beach.
He wasn’t able to make last year’s Waterfront Warriors trip because he was still rehabbing. But last week Himan scored tickets to Thursday’s Mets game, courtesy of Walter Reed, and the Waterfront Warriors sprung into action. They reached out to American Airlines, which donated seven seats on a flight from Washington, D.C. to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
There he was greeted by an escort made up of motorcycles, local fire departments and City of Long Beach, Nassau County and Port Authority police. His motorcade went over the Atlantic Beach bridge and cut through the village into Long Beach, passing the school on its way to the Allegria, which donated rooms for Himan and his family. Himan will leave Long Beach Thursday and will spend two days in New York City before returning home.
Himan smiled in the bright sun as teachers hugged and kissed him. Students cheered, waving their flags and erupting into song. Waterfront Warriors chairperson Gerry Snell said that Himan was unable to speak to the media due to his active duty status, but confirmed that his spirits were high.
“He was pretty happy,” said Snell, who drove the van that carried Himan. “It was nice to come up to Long Beach.”
Said 13-year old James Snell, Gerry Snell’s son and an eighth grader at the school, “I experienced how lucky I am to be able to walk.”
Learn more about Long Beach Waterfront Warriors at lbwaterfrontwarriors.org.