NEW YORK (AP) — A new, troublesome topic hovered over the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York this year: Britain’s failed Brexit deal with the European Union that could squeeze Ireland’s economy.
But nothing could put a damper on the largest American celebration of Irish heritage on Saturday, with tens of thousands of marchers following a painted green line up Fifth Avenue for the six-hour procession.
Kevin Coughlan, a 27-year-old spectator wearing pants with four-leaf clovers, captured both the New York celebration and the political near-catastrophe overseas, where he still has plenty of family — in Ireland.
“I’ve always been so proud to be an Irish-American, and that’s what today is about; it’s more than just one big party, it’s about celebrating our freedom,” said the Hoboken, New Jersey, resident.
His mood darkened when he turned to Brexit, which “is definitely something we’re all worried about, especially my family,” he said. “I mean, we’re all sort of just waiting for the shoe to drop to see what this means for the Irish economy.”
But, he added, “We can get through anything; we survived a potato famine.”
Through its history, dating back more than 250 years, the New York parade has often had a political element. In the 1970s and 1980s, as sectarian violence flared in Northern Ireland, there were controversies over the inclusion of groups supporting the militant wing of the Irish Republican Army. A banner reading “England get out of Ireland” has flown in the parade since the 1940s.
This year’s march is taking place amid a new set of questions about relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“When the Irish take to the streets this Saturday for the 258th St. Patrick’s Day Parade, our thoughts will take us far beyond the festivities on Fifth Ave. to Washington, D.C., and to the British Parliament in London,” the grand marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York, attorney Brian O’Dwyer, wrote in an editorial in the Daily News this week.
British lawmakers are struggling to find a way to exit the European Union without disrupting the two-decade old peace accords that created an open border between the Republic of Ireland, which is in the E.U., and Northern Ireland, which is in the U.K.
This week, with a March 29 deadline looming, British lawmakers voted to seek to delay Brexit for at least three months. But the possibility exists that the line between the two parts of Ireland, which has been unguarded for 20 years, will once again become hardened with vehicle checkpoints, with trade rules and tariffs in force.
O’Dwyer said Irish-Americans are ready to mobilize politically to oppose any arrangement that leads to a restoration of the hard border that once split the emerald isle.
“It was Irish-American activists who pressured former President Bill Clinton, over the objections of London and the U.S. State Department, to grant a visa to Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams that set in motion the process that led to the Good Friday Agreement, which ended the sectarian violence known as the Troubles and opened the border between the two Irelands for the first time since partition at the time of Irish Independence in 1921,” he wrote. “We have been talking to leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to let them know that the same Irish-American activists who pressured the Clinton administration are ready to saddle up again and fight against a post-Brexit trade deal between the U.S. and Great Britain if a hard border is restored.”
But for most at Saturday’s parade, the political debate over the future Northern Ireland took a back seat to the pageantry.
Popular marching groups include the pipes and drums corps for the Emerald Societies at the New York police and fire departments and the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, of the New York Army National Guard, which has led off the parade since 1851.
St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17, a Sunday this year, and the parade is always held the Saturday before even if the day does not fall on a Saturday.
Neil A. Carousso produced multi-media coverage of the 258th St. Patrick’s Day Parade for WCBS Newsradio 880.
NEW YORK, NY – Nancy Preston’s journey into entrepreneurship began while she was deployed in Iraq in 2007. She always wanted to be her own boss, but she was timid about taking the plunge until she faced fear head on while working 21-hour days in her Army operational unit with no breaks for nine months.
“I’m exhausted, but this fear that I used to have about running my own business kind of washed away after I realized what we’ve been doing and how hard we’ve been going for so long,” said Preston. “I always had this pull that I wanted to start my own business and I wanted it to be something I was really passionate about. So, that night, this epiphany came over me that if I can do this for God and Country, then I can do this for myself. I can really make something like this happen and it’s going to be in my passion – it’s going to be in food.”
Preston, 43, found Milk Money Kitchens in May 2018 and applied to the WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs. She was selected for their second run of the program that began last August and ran for 6 months through the end of January.
“We want to reduce the fixed cost and the overhead cost for people who want to start or grow food businesses”, Preston said.
The 6-month VIR program is for military members and veterans with an idea for a business. It matches entrepreneurs with mentors and resources to aid in rapid growth.
The Veterans in Residence Program opened Preston’s eyes to “make the most of every opportunity” and advance past the start-up phase into steady growth.
Her VIR cohort, Steve Forti, a Green Beret, seized on his vision to develop a mobile app that encourages competition in fitness.
FitFight, was born while Forti was deployed to Romania on a training mission in 2013. He had a group email chain with military friends scattered throughout places such as Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and North Carolina in which they would compare their workouts. Once, a member questioned Forti so he took a video of his workout to prove his time.
“Literally, as I hit the enter key, I realized that I was going to someday build a business around this concept,” said Forti, now 47. “And, that was sort of the impetus of it.”
Forti’s mentors at the WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs connected him with a development team and a designer who worked for Nike. Today, he employs 10 people in the WeWork network.
FitFight is growing conservatively at 68 percent a month with an average of 1,000 submissions from users who launch fitness competitions with users from around the world, including Yemen, Ireland and Venezuela.
He has even teamed-up with Navy Lt. Dave Hunt of CrossRope for sponsored challenges.
“Steve Forti already used his own funds to go and pay for legal aid and contracts and so forth, and we try to help our businesses meet other experts in that field at low to no cost,” said Bunker Labs Northeast Regional Executive Director Katherine Kostreva.
“The institutional experience and the guidance that was offered for some of the connections, either for the formal engagements or the informal engagements, can’t be quantified, but in a good way [it’s] immeasurable,” Forti said.
Kostreva is part of the selection committee for the Veterans in Residence Program. It’s a selective process, but the VIR program will help connect veterans with resources and a WeWork office space at a 25 percent discount for all veterans for their first year.
About 10 people are chosen for each program in each city from a pool of hundreds. Applicants go through several stages of interviews. Generally, they are looking for candidates who have a business plan in mind and need direction in specific areas for which mentorship will be a key asset in setting veteran entrepreneurs up for success.
The WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs is operating in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Nashville, Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Detroit, Denver, Chicago and Austin.
PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — It’s called the forgotten war, but a hero’s daughter will never forget the sacrifices of her father, Private First Class Walter E. Decker, during his time in the Army in World War I. A special golden crucifix passed on to her keeps him first place.
“I was close to my dad growing up, and I always remembered in the summer, he’d be wearing these long johns, and the tissue on his skin was so thin, that he’d bleed through,” said Carol Fazio, 77, of her father. “He suffered ‘til the day he died from mustard gas.”
Decker’s hand-written discharge papers notes he was gassed on October 15, 1918 while serving in France for just under 10 months.
He entered the service at 16, just before his 17th birthday, after his father died. He mailed each of his allotment checks to his mother.
“He was a communication expert. His company would go up to see the enemy and to send back [intelligence] to his troops,” said Fazio. “On the way back, that’s when the enemy got them and shot them.”
German troops attacked Unit Company B in the 303rd Field Signal Battalion of the 78th Infantry Division in the French forests with mustard gas.
“My father was left for dead. They thought he was dead,” Fazio said, adding several of his cohorts were killed.
Decker was 20 at the time of the gas attack. He died in 1980 at the age of 82. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island where local soldiers from all the wars are buried with their spouses.
Private First Class Decker received the Purple Heart in the first year the award was instituted, 1932, on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.
He also received the Distinguished Service Cross – the second highest decoration for valor.
But it is a different cross passing through the generations that’s revered by Decker’s daughter.
“At the time, the French monks used to go through the forest when they knew it was safe and call out to find out anybody who was alive. And, they heard my father, and what they did was they placed this cross on each of the bodies that were ready to go back, back to a hospital,” said Fazio while holding the golden crucifix.
Fazio just learned of the cross last year when she visited her niece and nephew in Wilmington, North Carolina. The cross made its way to Decker’s step-son Daniel who was a Marine, and then, Daniel’s brother Alfred when he died. The family wanted Carol to have it, as she is Decker’s biological daughter.
“I had no idea. It was really overwhelming, it really was, to think I was holding something that was 100 years and it stood on my father in the forest,” Fazio said.
When Carol was growing up, it was common for disabled veterans to be at her house. Decker was active in the Disabled American Veterans Charity (DAV) after leaving the Army and would visit wounded soldiers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Veterans Affairs facilities.
“My father would walk them through it,” said Fazio who saw her father as a caregiver, serving throughout his lifetime.
Like many WWI veterans, Decker did not talk about his service, what he saw overseas or the gas attack in France that left him suffering until the day he died. The stories were passed on through family members who gleaned information over time.
“One thing I asked him about the war and about his involvement, everything with the VFW, I asked him, if he had to do it all over again,” said Fazio. “I said to him, ‘Dad, would you do that?’ I said, ‘Would you go into the service?’ And he said, ‘Without a doubt.'”
“There is nothing free about freedom and our men and women today sacrifice life and limb to protect those freedoms,” said Riggle to a room filled with veterans and service members from all branches.
Riggle retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years of service in the Marines Corps Reserve. He served in Afghanistan, earning two Meritorious Service Medals, National Defense Service Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other decorations.
He is known for his comedic roles on The Daily Show and films such as 21 Jump Street and The Hangover. His former Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert was a guest speaker at the gala.
Riggle spoke of his priorities for veterans while praising the IAVA for their unrelenting support of our heroes through education and legislative pursuits. He also emphasized the need for a modernization of an “antiquated” Department of Veterans Affairs system, exclaiming that in this day and age, no veteran should be unaware of the benefits they earned.
Sporting a full beard for a role in an unspecified project, Riggle addressed the Thousand Oaks, California shooting in which the alleged gunman Ian David Long was a veteran of the Marine Corps.
Riggle said it’s imperative to emphasize that a veteran carrying out a mass shooting is the exception and that vets are more likely to harm themselves than anyone else. He called on more mental health awareness and resources to reduce the average of 22 veteran suicides a day.
“There’s a reason I get teary-eyed when I hear the National Anthem. It’s my home. I love my home,” said Riggle. He called for unity around core values at a time when partisans use events to fit their agendas.
“Our Constitutional rights – be it freedom of religion or speech or due process – we all still enjoy it today hundreds of years later because of what those brave Americans did in their time and what millions of brave Americans are doing right now in their time,” Riggle said.
NEW YORK (AP/WCBS 880) — Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia has won the New York City Marathon, holding off countryman Shura Kitata by 1.99 seconds.
Desisa finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 59 seconds. Last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, finished third.
Mary Keitany of Kenya became the second woman to win the marathon four times, beating countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot by 3 minutes, 13 seconds.
Keitany ran the race in 2:22:48, the second fastest in history. Margaret Okayo of Kenya holds the record of 2:22:31, which was set in 2003.
The victory was Keitany’s fourth in New York in the last five years. She won in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before coming in second last year to American Shalane Flanagan. Keitany joined Grete Waitz as the only women to win the marathon four times. Waitz, a Norwegian, won the marathon nine times between 1978-1988.
Flanagan finished third.
More than 50,000 runners began their 26.2-mile journey across the five boroughs on a sunny Sunday morning as part of the 47th New York City Marathon.
They trained in darkness and rain, and through pain, for this day, which starts on Staten Island, winding through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, before ending back in Central Park.