“Semper Fi” were the last words on Peter Parente’s voice mail. I had called to thank him for forwarding information about . He could not make it on to the show because he was, as you might expect, a little too busy. Somehow, this ex-Marine—actually there are no ex-Marines, they are mates for life—finds the time every year to organize the event and run very busy family businesses.
Peter is the same guy who almost single handedly brought back the annual memorial remembrance to New Rochelle after an absence of many years. Yes, he had help from city hall—especially Communications Manager Kathy Gilwit—several businesses like and , and a host of volunteers. But it was his tireless leadership that served to spearhead the project. Once again, this past Monday, New Rochelle came together for the parade and subsequent festival at Hudson Park. As always, he was dressed in uniform and giving thanks.
This thanks is to Peter.
Another resident prominent at these affairs is former assemblyman and one-time mayoral aspirant Ron Tocci. Ron served an important role as a veteran’s affairs administrator for New York State, and is kind of our city’s veteran at large. And he looked cool in his 1957 T-Bird.
Then there is Mayor Noam Bramson. This city is blessed with one of the finest public speakers in the state, probably more for how he thinks and what he writes than his delivery. Once again, he turned those no longer with us into living breathing young men and women willing to give their lives for this great country of ours and made us think about how our own notions, based on entertainment, pale before those that serve.
"In place of personal experience, we see a thousand Hollywood movies, yet surely, the reality is far different," Bramson said.
Each year, as this year, as I cover the parade for WVOX radio, I am warmed as much by what I see, as I am by the sacrifices of those we gather to remember. If ever there were a team of rivals, it is these three men from different backgrounds and different political convictions. Over the years they have fought hard and often. Yet here they are representing some of the best New Rochelle has to offer, and giving thanks.
I am sure it is not lost on anyone, but just in case, this is what these now past soldiers gave their lives for.
From my little post as a talk-radio guy, I get to feel a small measure of the heartbeat of freedom. The diversity of ideas and opinions, along with the passion with which they are delivered, never fails to amaze me. Not a day goes by that I am not aware of how fortunate we are in America to speak our minds and disagree in an open forum.
A word, if I may, for the departed. I don’t know how others feel, but I have not yet gotten my head around the idea of dying. The very notion that I will never ever be is incomprehensible. Barring the notion, as many religions hold, that we will live forever after, this is the case for our beloved men and women we honored on Monday. At minimum, they went to their graves with the normal healthy doubt that all but the most devout hold. Nonetheless, it was worth it for them to risk losing their time in this short flicker of light we call life for the rest of us.
Thank you. And thank you Peter, Ron and Noam for reminding us every year.