Thousands of gulf veterans parade in New York Confetti fills the air for blocks as parade marches triumphantly down Broadway.

June 10, 1991|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Evening Sun Staff

NEW YORK -- Flanked by police with riot shields, Desert Storm Commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf led 24,000 troops down Broadway today in a blinding hail of confetti.

Crowds lined the street scores deep. Side streets were blocked off, jammed with parade goers and workers negotiating to cross police lines to return to their offices.

The multi-colored confetti storm filled the air for blocks on either side of Broadway.

Here and there knots of anti-war protesters held up posters oincinerated bodies and loosed death screams. Supporters of the war shouted back, "USA, USA," and tried to grab their signs. The police broke up scuffles between them.

Gary Pendrick, 31, a protester from Hoboken, N.J., complained of "fascisti" in the crowds. "They're not here to dialogue," was his hapless lament.

Joseph Lefchuck was here for a reunion. He made his way up Broadway today with one arm braced by a crutch and an eye cocked for anyone he might remember from World War II.

"I'm hoping to run into somebody I haven't seen in all kinds of years," said Lefchuck.

Lefchuck, 75, still suffers from shrapnel wounds suffered aboard a Navy destroyer off Norway.

The parade that marched up Broadway "I think is terrific [for the troops]. They deserve it," he said, but "I'm mad at the guys who sent them."

He thinks the gulf war shouldn't have been fought, but he wants to cheer the troops anyway. "They had to go," he said. "It wasn't their fault."

Lefchuck's ambivalence seems a part of the national extravaganza that New York, which has undergone deep budget surgery, feels obliged to put on, but cannot afford.

The city has raised $5.2 million in corporate and individual donations to cover the cost of the celebration.

Many New Yorkers have contributed with acts of hospitality, especially toward sailors who wandered the streets yesterday, on shore leave from battleships docked in New York Harbor.

Henry Buckley, a sailor from New Orleans, said he was warned before going ashore from the USS Wisconsin, which once pounded Iraqi positions, that New York could be dangerous. Instead, some people he and his shipmates met in a Staten Island bar took them home for dinner. And at every bar they visit, "People buy us drinks," he said. "We don't have to buy none."

The parade is a polyglot of themes, covering everything from mourning the dead to celebrating New York's steamy brew of ethnic diversity. A Chinese drum and bugle corps and a delegation from the Maltese Cultural Center were among the international groups set to march with troops and dignitaries.

But as a theme, victory was out.

The city and corporate organizers say this is not a victory parade, but rather "a celebration of peace through international cooperation."

For all the rivalry over which city would have the best celebration, this distinction is foremost in any comparison of today's parade in New York and Saturday's parade in Washington.

In the hours before the bands struck up their marches in Washington, the scene suggested a bloodless coup.

Tanks were parked on Constitution Avenue. Rank upon rank of soldiers in desert camouflage loitered under shade trees near the Capitol.

The open pastures of the Mall were taken over by helicopters, missile launchers, a Harrier jumpjet, a mess tent, a barracks and other displays of military life.

Many of the gulf war veterans were delighted with Washington's day of appreciation, and with the civilians who asked to have pictures taken standing next to them.

Sgt. James Thompson of Keyser W. Va., was of two minds about the parade. "I feel real good, but kind of mixed emotions about the show of military hardware," said Thompson, an active duty Army MP who guarded Iraqi prisoners of war.

He thought the government had mixed its message. "They should be saying welcome home as opposed to us [the military] saying, 'Look at what we've got in military might,' " Thompson said.

"It's kind of like the Russian parades," he said. "But don't get me wrong, I enjoy it."

The more brass and blare and ballyhoo, the better for Sgt. Hezekiah Temoney, 41. The Washington parade honoring his gulf war service filled in for the parade he never got after coming home from his first tour of duty in Vietnam.

"I'm celebrating this more for Vietnam than I am for Saudi Arabia," he said, standing near a tip of the dark, sunken "V" that is the monument to the Vietnam dead.

As he traveled to Washington from his base at Fort Bragg, N.C., Temoney began to take the expressions of support personally. "I wasn't going to let the past ruin the present," he said.

Just then, the parade began with a Stealth bomber darting overhead, quick and muffled as a black moth, followed by the clunk of helicopters fluttering in formation.

On the ground, as troops and hardware passed, the crowd saved its biggest cheers for the trucks of Patriot missiles and their launchers.

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