At Bridesburg parade, cheers, tears and a little bitterness

One of the oldest parades in the country continued the tradition in Bridesburg Monday to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country.

Young and old came out to the parade and Memorial Day remembrance.

Neil Mulhern will be 93 years old next month. He said he will never forget Jan. 12, 1945. On that day, he was in the South Pacific as part of the U.S. Navy fighting in World War II.

“In the evening we were hit with a kamikaze,” Mulhern said, his eyes growing moist and his voice breaking. ” I lost 111 of my buddies. There’s still about six of us left today. This is something I went through, something I will never forget. I got tears coming down my eyes just talking about it.”

Gary Speaker was a first sergeant who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, Grenada, Desert Storm and Somalia. He says the Bridesburg parade is special because of the people who come out.

“It’s a very tight community, we have a lot of veterans down here and they understand the price of freedom is not free.”

Paul Maryanski, a Vietnam veteran, also appreciated the applause and warm feelings of the day.

But he could not avoid recalling how that contrasted with his “welcome” home during his war.

“World War II guys, they let them bring some souveniers, weapons,” Maryanski said. “Had they let us bring weapons home from Vietnam, all those college kids who were throwing firebombs at us at the airport in Seattle, we would have been able to defend ourselves.”

After the ceremonies, the annual parade moved down Richmond Street, joining veterans with Boy Scouts waving to the crowds that lined the street.

An earlier version of the story identified Gary Speaker as serving in another branch of the military.  It has been corrected and we apologize for the error.

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