Joseph Hennessy, chair of Community Board 6, Terrance Holliday, commissioner of the mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and Our Lady of Mercy’s Monsignor John McGuirl will each carry the prestigious title, and lead the parade, which begins at 12 p.m. on May 25.
The three representatives of the parade will be formally announced and celebrated at a fundraising cocktail party at the Legion, located at 107-15 Metropolitan Ave., on April 29 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Joanne Ciociari, secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills, said the event has been a part of the community for the 43 years she has been a resident, and she anticipates another welcoming turnout from the Forest Hills community.
“We’ve been doing the parade so many years, and it’s a tradition that you don’t want to give it up,” Ciociari said. “You just hope people are generous. People don’t realize it costs nearly $13,000 to put this parade on.”
After serving for several years in Germany from 1959 to 1961, stationed on the same ship as rock and roll legend Elvis Pressley, Hennessey said he has always had a great deal of respect for those who have followed.
“It’s a great honor, it really is,” Hennessey said after learning he had been selected as one of the marshals for this year’s parade. “These vets and the organizations involved in the parade, probably most of them don’t even know I’m a vet, but I was there when the Berlin wall was being put up.”
Now as chair of CB6 representing the communities of Rego Park and Forest Hills, Hennessey said he hopes to see a buzz around this year’s event from all of his neighbors and local business owners.
“I was very honored to be asked to be a part of this event,” Hennessey said. “I would love to see additional funding, and it would be nice if these merchants, especially the larger ones like Rego Center, can step up.”
While he said he does look forward to meeting the members of the Legion, he does not anticipate wearing his old uniform to the parade.
“I weighed 130 pounds back when I was in the service,” he joked.
This New York City native embodies what it means to represent the fallen veterans.
After receiving a BA from St. John’s University and an MBA from New York Institute of Technology, Holliday entered the military with the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1968, following in the footsteps of dozens of family members and friends.
“On my father’s side, I had four or five brothers in the military, my mother had five brothers in the military – two retired colonels – and there were a couple of cousins in Vietnam,” Holliday said.
Rising to the rank of technical sergeant, he later became a lieutenant in 1977 and served in the 170th Air Refueling Group. In Operation Desert Shield, Holliday was deployed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he served as a public relations officer for the 1701st Strategic Wing in 1990.
Following 38 years of service in the armed forces and attaining colonel status in 2004, Holliday became a city commissioner in January 2011 and today represents over 215,000 veterans in the five boroughs.
“Memorial Day is a day where we honor all of our military men and women who died in wars and those who served in uniform and passed away regardless of the course,” Holliday explained. “We’re looking at service, and there is a level of service that some people just don’t understand.”
Growing up in Forest Hills, the monsignor of Our Lady of Mercy never thought he would become the pastor of a church near his home.
He added that he was even more surprised after the Kiwanis of Forest Hills bestowed the honor of grand marshal for the parade he recalled watching as a child.
“I’m flattered,” McGuirl said. “I’m a native son of Forest Hills. My grandparents bought the house in 1925 when this neighborhood was first developing from farmland to suburban sprawl.”
While growing up as a young child and watching WWII veterans return home from war, he recalled the neighborhood always carrying a receptive and patriotic undertone.
“We’ve all been involved and it’s always been a neighborhood for that,” he said. “The veterans and organizers of this parade have done a really bang-up job in recent years.”
The former student of P.S. 144, Our Lady of Martyrs and Archbishop Malloy High School, McGuirl said he cannot believe how far the parade has come over the years and looks forward to doing what he can to push it even more in 2014.
“It’s amazing to see it now,” he said. “It’s really been put on the map, whereas before it was something you would have thought would only go for a couple more years.”