Residents lined the streets of the West End last Sunday afternoon, waving flags and cheering as the Long Beach Waterfront Warriors welcome parade rolled through the streets.
Twenty-one wounded servicemen and their families were brought to Long Beach as a part of this year’s Waterfront Warriors program. Now in its fifth year, the organization gives severely wounded servicemen the chance to take a vacation with their families from the military medical center where they must live while they recuperate.
“This is a chance for them to experience how much people appreciate them,” said Waterfront Warriors Co-Chair Jerry Snell. “But it’s also a chance for them to be on vacation with their family for the first time since they’ve been injured.”
The parade kicked off at Ohio Avenue and West Beech Street at 3 p.m., led by the U.S. Veterans’ Motorcycle Club. Many local veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Ladies Auxiliary VFW, the NYC Fire Riders and the Patriot Guard Riders, rode through the streets, accompanied by cars carrying the honored servicemen and their families.
The parade turned down New York Avenue and ended at the Long Beach Catholic Regional School, where a barbecue was held. As each honoree entered, he was saluted by others in uniform and cheered by bystanders. Volunteers from the New York City Fire Department grilled burgers and hot dogs, a band performed and an ice cream truck gave out cones.
The organization raises money throughout the year to fund the trip for the servicemen and their families. This year, more than 50 people took the six-day trip. Most stay at the Allegria Hotel, while others stay with local families.
All of the servicemen come from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Snell said that when they are seriously injured in combat, they are brought to Walter Reed. Many of them were injured by improvised explosive devices, and as a result have lost limbs and suffered other serious injuries.
“Some of these guys have been injured in the last couple of months,” said Snell. “They have constant surgeries and rehab. Their world has changed enormously.”