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Black Tie International
The 28th Annual John Basilone Day Parade

 


Semper Fi!  
The 28th Annual John Basilone Day Parade
in Raritan, New Jersey


    Photos & Story by: Fiddle Viracola

 
The statue of John Basilone, Medal of honor, Navy Cross,purple heart etc. Beneath is Jon Seda who will be playing Basilone in
The statue of John Basilone, Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Purple Heart etc. Beneath is Jon Seda who will be playing Basilone in
The Pacific the Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, HBO series
( answer to their Band Of Brothers.) He is with Actress/ writer Fiddle Viracola whose Aunt Master Sergeant Lena Riggi Basilone was John Basilone's wife.

 

John Basiline Day

Beginning of the Parade

 

The Quantico Marine Band who also gave a concert the night before to honor John Basilone

The Quantico Marine Band who also gave a concert the
 night before to honor John Basilone

 

Lt. Colonel Thiessen from the Pentagon next to center

Lt.General Thiessen from the Pentagon next to center
John Pacifico Chairman of the John Basilone Parade committee with retired Marines

 

At the base of the Basilone statue, before the laying

At the base of the Basilone statue, before the laying
of the wreaths after the parade

 
 

 


 
Semper Fi!  The 28th Annual John Basilone Day Parade in Raritan, New Jersey. For twenty one years John Pacifico chaired the Parade Committee that led the town’s dedication to their local hero. It’s the only parade in America for one celebrated enlisted man.

 

They come from all over to honor Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Purple Heart, recipient Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone: the only enlisted man with a MOH to go back into war. That choice required going to Camp Pendleton first. There he met, fell in love and married Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi. Hawaii beckoned then Iwo Jima took his life at twenty eight  on its World War 11 sinking black sands.

 

This rainy, fall, John Basilone Day is for all veterans.. They are our heroes, bringing the past to the present
in Raritan.

 

Thousands line Somerset Street. Floats appear, then military and school bands. Bagpipers pipe in plaid kilts before The Rolling Thunder, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Leatherneck Pipe and Drums, Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, National Guard, Coast Guard and St. Ann’s School. Tots swat flags at the Marine Color Guard while catching thrown tootsie rolls

 

Veterans wave from trucks, motorcycles or cars that list wars on doors and embroidered red jackets. Some wear blue crew hats printed USS Basilone DD-824. The Navy Destroyer namesake junked after Viet Nam.

 

WW11 Veterans walk with a shuffle now, a button popping from a shirt. Those in wheel chairs roll by not complaining of lost limbs. The Marine Quantico Band from Quantico VA trumpets… From the halls of Montezuma…to grey/white heads held high with starched pride. A golden glint rises in their eyes. It’s the light of the past reawakening when they mattered; living danger, excitement, purpose and camaraderie.  Upon return their life dimmed to worn battle tales told in barber shops, to listener’s veiled lack of respect.

 

Once a year on John Basilone Day it’s different. It’s safe to show what’s deep inside. With curved backs, lined chiseled faces spark a crisp salute passing the reviewing stand. Sometimes a tear trickles down a white beard as they acknowledge 2009’s guest from the Pentagon: Lt. General Duane Theissen,
as it did to past guests: Colonel Anthony Zinni,
General Robert  Magnus, Governor Jon Corzine,  Clinton Watters, General George Flynn,  NYC Police Commissioner  Ray Kelly, NYC City Council  President Christine Quinn, etc.

 

And I watch veterans deep connections to strangers forever united by a salute; their bonded ring. I hear “To the shores of Tripoli” It’s the silence between the notes they hear. Once a Marine always a Marine its valued message.

 

I stare at a gung-ho young boy in camouflage green, greased face; a rack of bullets across his chest. He frightens me. Is he our future? More war? I don’t want him to die.

The Buddhists say: “We all have a war inside. If we healed that there would not be the war outside.”  A favorite saying of author Frank Mc Court  flashes: “It will be a great joy when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

 

Onward to the park’s laying of wreaths at the John Basilone statue. Donald Basilone, his last remaining brother gets first honor; others follow. A church lady
in a red hat sings “God Bless America” All join in.

LT. General Theissen speaks: “His example challenges us. Throughout our history we have turned to young men and women to defend this country. Occasionally, a person comes along and defines an organization.”
 

Gun shots rip in tribute. The flag raising on volcanic Mount Suribachi is re- enacted next to blooms of yellow chrysanthemums.  A mournful Taps is played.
 

Then, like a switch flipped, the town empties, quickly. All are gone. Nothing Stirs. Raritan is a ghost town. Was it real?   Or like Brigadoon.

 

Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Gary Goetzman and HBO have a ten part mini series The Pacific due in March 2010. (answer to their Band of Brothers)  It’s about three hero’s lives.  One is John Basilone. Actor Jon Seda who plays him led this parade, rewinding footsteps of Basilone’s early life.  My Aunt, Lena Riggi Basilone. is played by Annie Parisse. She died wearing his ring.


 

 

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joyce@blacktiemagazine.com

 
 
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