15 May 2010

Staten Islanders offer heartfelt salute to wounded warriors

Motrorcyclists, 200 strong, escort wounded soldiers visiting from Water Reed Hospital in Washington along Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel.

I *heart* New York.

Staten Islanders offer heartfelt salute to wounded warriors
By Jeff Harrell
May 14, 2010, 10:48PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- It was impossible to miss the wounded war heroes today.

Behind an advance guard of 200 deafening choppers, their motorcade wended its way along Richmond Avenue past the Staten Island Mall, attended by fluttering flags and chants of "America rocks!"

It was a fitting New York City welcome for nine severely wounded veterans who ventured from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., to visit the Island as guests of the Tamburri Post, American Veterans (AMVETS).

"It's very exciting. I got goosebumps," said Tamburri Post member Dennis McLoone of Westerleigh.

"I'm just proud, proud, proud of our guys doing a job nobody else would want," proclaimed Kathryn Fixsen of Eltingville. "It makes America what it is."

Well-wishers lined Richmond Avenue in front of the Mall for more than two hours waiting for the heroes' motorcade -- which followed the bikers from the Islanders Motorcycle Club up the New Jersey Turnpike, over the Outerbridge Crossing and along the Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway before making its way up Richmond to Travis and South avenues.

Then the wounded war heroes enjoyed a well-deserved lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

Students from PS 29 in Castleton Corners wave American flags as the motorcade passes. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel.

As passing motorists honked while knots of veterans from the Cespino-Russo Post, American Legion, and a throng of residents waited in front of the Mall for the wounded warriors to pass, flag-waving fourth-graders from PS 29 led those gathered in chanting "America Rocks!" and "We love America!"

Barbara Camporeale, a fourth-grade social studies teacher at the school, said the children will long remember today's homage.

"We wanted to take them to be the welcoming committee for the wounded warriors," Ms. Camporeale said.

Seeing the wounded veterans pass by in vans took on a special meaning for Mary LaManna of Westerleigh, who served during the Vietnam War as a U.S. Army nurse at the Third Field Hospital in Saigon.

"Our wounded heroes," Ms. LaManna said. "Those are the ones that we should be here to honor, to welcome to Staten Island, and show how appreciative we are."

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