For Veterans Day this year, Claudia Moore Hamilton sent flowers to her 27-year-old nephew, who served as a Marine in Iraq.
“The very least people can do is to thank their family members who served,” said Hamilton, a South Bronx resident and assistant principal at P.S. 57.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may not enjoy the widespread public endorsement of World War II, but New Yorkers largely support and respect those who serve.
“I love the Marines!” gushed Lorenzo Bell, a Manhattan resident. Bell, 50, would have loved to have joined the Marines were it not for basic training (“I would never have made it”) and certain requirements (“I could never kill no body.”)
Veterans, naturally feel differently about their service, based on what they experienced, suffered and lost.
Merv LeBlanc, 50, of Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, described his disabled veteran’s status as an asset. Cops who are themselves veterans often give him the benefit of the doubt when issuing tickets. He gets a free vendors license to sell pocketbooks in midtown and has received hiring preference due to a five-year stint in the U.S. Army that ended in 1982. Too, he exalted, “I have free medical care,” in an economy when many people lack health insurance.
Gratitude for his service is scant consolation to Joseph Palladino, 66, of Dyker Heights, who has several purple hearts. “I’m all f-----d up!” exclaimed the U.S. Army veteran who was shot numerous times, including once in the throat. “I can’t see. I can’t hear!” rasped the Times Square vendor. Young people underestimate the risks of life-shattering injuries, said Palladino, who would dissuade them: “Go to college. Get an education. Don’t be an idiot.”
“I give a lot of respect to those guys who gave up more than I did,” said Jason Hope, 29, bank manager who lives in the West Village. Hope, a Marine from 1999 to 2004, said the bond he has with other Marines is stronger than any he has with blood relatives. “It’s the reason you do it,” he said. “You don’t get paid much and you deal with a lot. It’s tough, and not everyone makes it,” but those that do become brothers, said Hope.
Today, Hope and his Marine brothers are more likely “connect on Facebook” than to meet in a V.F.W. hall.